New York State Government Doubling Down On Workplace Safety Standards With HERO Act


David Mudd

The economy of New York State was set back by $10.9 billion in the past three years due to workplace injuries alone, according to EHS Today. The matter of workplace health and safety is as much an economic concern as it is a humanitarian one.

But now, thanks in large part to the tumultuous circumstances of the turn of the decade, New York Legislature has finally been given the impetus to write a bill that addresses the issue. Dubbed the New York Health And Essential Rights or HERO Act, this bill has already passed in both legislative houses and is slated to be signed by Gov. Cuomo next month.

What the Bill Entails

The bill is mainly focused on giving employees the power to verify and review their employer’s health and safety plans. This will be facilitated by a workplace committee elected by the employees. They will be obligated to raise awareness about hazards, and report non-compliant employers and employees to the authorities.

The full list of standards enforced by the law will be published at a later date. Employers are highly encouraged to implement plans that exceed said standards, in order to ensure that they don’t fall short of the minimum requirements.

How Employers Will Be Held to the New Standards

Employers will be fined $50 for every day that they neglect to implement a proper health and safety plan. Once they do choose a plan, they will be held to enforcing it with penalties ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. On top of this, employees have also been given the privilege of suing for injunctive relief should their employers fail to follow their plan.
This can result in damage payments of as much as $20,000, exclusive of court costs and legal fees. Payment is virtually guaranteed should the plaintiff be able to provide unequivocal proof that the employer did not make an attempt to follow the law to the best of their ability.
However, according to information on, what this entails can vary from job to job. Hence, it is best to enlist the help of lawyers who specialize in work injury suits. Moreover, the law makes stringent measures to prevent employers from retaliating against employee whistleblowers.

What Comes Next

All that’s left now is for the NY Department of Labor to decide on the minimum standards. They will have 30 days to deliberate starting at the moment Governor Cuomo places his signature. Said minimum standards will vary from industry to industry, but disinfecting, protective equipment, health screening, and social distancing strictures will remain largely standard.

The DOL will release officially recommended prevention plans to help employers, but they can also use their own plans so long as they meet or exceed the DOL’s standards. Whichever they choose, they are required to make their plans fully transparent to their employees and the authorities.

Given the long-standing issues in New York’s workplace health and safety regulations that predate the pandemic, this bill comes rather late. Regardless, it has the potential to drive down both the economic and public health damage that has been plaguing the state for years. If all goes well, it could lay the groundwork for more effective health and safety measures in the years to come