On September 6, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul designated COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” under the New York Health and Essential Rights (HERO) Act. This designation means that all New York employers must activate the workplace safety plans that they developed under the HERO Act standards. The workplace safety plan can be based on the model plan jointly developed by the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Department of Labor. Employers can also develop their own plans, subject to certain minimum requirements.
New York State Department of Labor Publishes Standard for Prevention of Airborne Infectious Diseases
On July 6, 2021, the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) published its Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard (Standard), as required under the New York Health and Essential Rights (HERO) Act. Under the Standard, employers with worksites located in New York are required to either adopt the NYSDOL’s model exposure prevention plan or develop their own alternative prevention plan no later than August 5, 2021, and circulate their plan to employees no later than September 4, 2021.
According to McDermott’s Lindsay Ditlow, Christina S. Dumitrescu and Abigail M. Kagan, employers must adopt a prevention plan but are not required to implement the plan until the New York State Commissioner of Health (Commissioner) designates an airborne disease as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.” As of the date of this alert, the Commissioner has not issued any such designation so employers need not implement their plans just yet.
On June 21, 2021, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) long-anticipated Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 requirements in the healthcare industry went into effect. Most of the requirements must be followed by July 6, 2021; the remainder (on implementing physical barriers, improved ventilation systems and employee trainings) must be implemented no later than July 21, 2021, according to McDermott’s Abigail M. Kagan and Michelle S. Strowhiro. OSHA’s COVID-19 safety requirements are workplace-specific. Employers who have some employees working in a patient setting and other employees working in a corporate setting may need to follow the requirements only for the patient-based setting.
As the UK Government works through its phased COVID-19 recovery strategy and lockdown restrictions are progressively eased, employers in the United Kingdom are contemplating the implications of returning staff to the workplace. In this article, we address some of the key issues for employers to consider, with a particular focus on the UK Government’s “Covid-secure” workplace guidance. The issues raised in this article are subject to any local requirements that may apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Most states have issued some form of ‘shelter in place’ or ‘stay at home’ order to flatten the curve of COVID-19. As a result, many business operations have been temporarily suspended, unless the business is engaged in essential or critical infrastructure functions or supports businesses engaged in such functions.
For businesses that are considered ‘essential’ and have employees still reporting to work, what steps can employers take to keep their workplace healthy and safe?