ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — A bill that aims to better improve and enforce safety standards in the workplace has passed through the New York legislature. But, business leaders across the state say it goes too far, and will put in place stringent regulations, especially during a time when many are struggling to stay afloat.
“I argue that there is no better time to protect the lives of our workers, of our communities and of our industries,” Assemblywoman Karines Reyes said about the HERO Act as a bill sponsor on Monday.
The New York HERO Act looks to further reduce the spread of infectious airborne diseases in the workplace, whether that be during the COVID-19 pandemic or other potential outbreaks in the future. Under the bill the Department of Labor and the Department of Health would set ‘enforceable’ standards that businesses must follow when it comes to protocols like PPE, disinfecting and testing.
But some in the business community say this will not add to the economic recovery, and will instead add to the burdens they’ve already felt. “We need to tap the breaks and we need to be thinking about easing burdens, doing things that make sense, that protect the public, and protect workers, absolutely. We’ve been doing that from the start but let’s have some reality here,” said Associated General Contractors of New York State President and CEO Mike Elmendorf.
“This legislation is extremely broad and expansive and applies to all airborne infectious diseases beyond COVID-19 and there will be significant costs borne by small businesses,” said Ashley Ranslow with NFIB.
In addition to the new safety standards, workplaces would need to have safety committees. “I support the stipulations in this bill that would establish safety committees composed of employees and management because it is front line workers who know best what they need to stay safe,” Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas said on the floor Monday.
Under the bill workers are also protected from retaliation by their employer for reporting health and safety violations in the workplace.