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Worker Rights to Safe Workplaces in New York During COVID-19

New York has many laws in place to protect worker safety on the job. These laws place duties on employers to provide a safe work environment, take reasonable steps to prevent illnesses in the workplace, and ensure workers have the proper personal protective equipment to do their jobs safely.

Presently, many businesses are closed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world. Some businesses remain open throughout the pandemic, and others will be reopening soon. Workers have a right to expect a safe working environment when they come back to work. In addition to the laws already in place, more guidelines, regulations and orders have been put out at the state and federal levels, specifically in response to COVID-19. If you or a loved one contracts COVID-19 at work because the employer failed to follow safe practices, you might be entitled to compensation for the harm done to you. Call the Kohn Law Firm in the Bronx for a free consultation on any potential claims you may have.

PPE for Workers in New York

Workers in construction and other industries have long relied on personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe from injury or illness on the job. Now, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the need for PPE for a much wider range of employees, including just about anybody who works with customers, the public, or in close proximity to co-workers. While all of us are adapting to new ways of living and working, the basic requirement for employers to provide a safe work environment has not changed. Nevertheless, new laws and rules are being developed all the time to craft the appropriate response to working during a viral pandemic. Check in regularly with our blog to stay on top of the latest developments in this shifting landscape, and call our Bronx personal injury lawyers if you’ve been injured on the job in New York City. Below, learn more about the requirements for PPE in general.

New York Workers Are Entitled to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on the Job

A host of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require employers nationwide to provide PPE for their employers as needed for their jobs in general industry or construction in particular. PPE can include eye and face protection, respiratory protection, head protection, hand and foot protection, hearing protection and more. Employers can’t just require workers to wear PPE at their own expense; instead, the employers must provide it to the employees, maintain it and replace it as necessary.

The PPE required for a job must be appropriate to the hazard the worker faces. For instance, OSHA has different standards for workers in general industry compared to workers who come into contact with bloodborne pathogens or hazardous materials. When it comes to COVID-19, common PPE includes goggles, gloves, face masks, face shields and respiratory protection. PPE must be properly fitted and refitted as needed, regularly inspected, maintained and replaced. OSHA requires additional PPE for workers in every risk classification except the very lowest, meaning workers whose jobs do not require contact with people known to be or suspected of being infected or who do not have frequent close contact (within six feet) of the general public.

Additionally, by an executive order from the Governor, New York currently requires employees of essential businesses to wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or members of the public. Businesses are required by law to provide these face coverings to their workers. Whether the employer buys or makes the masks in-house, the responsibility falls on the business to provide face coverings at the company’s own expense. Under the order, employees can bring and use their own coverings, but the employer can’t make them bring their own.

PPE May Not Be All That Is Required

PPE is just one line of attack to prevent exposure to COVID-19 at work. Employers should consider engineering controls (air filters, negative pressure ventilation, sneeze guards and barriers, drive-through windows for customers), administrative controls (remote work, videoconferencing, extra shifts), and safe work practices (handwashing, hand sanitizer stations, surface disinfectants). The exact measures required will differ from place to place, but reasonable steps any employer could take include:

  • Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan – Keep on top of the latest guidance from federal, state and local agencies, and maintain compliance with the latest rules.
  • Implement basic infection prevention measures – Encourage frequent hand washing, tell employees to stay home if they feel sick, remind workers to cover their coughs and sneezes.
  • Develop a procedure to promptly identify and isolate sick people – Encourage employees to self-monitor, and have a policy and procedure in place for them to report any symptoms. Have policies and procedures for what to do if employees show up sick or symptomatic.

Businesses that ignore New York laws and orders, OSHA standards, or basic reasonable safe work practices, can and should be held liable when their negligence or workplace violations make workers sick. An experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you of your rights and help you hold your employer accountable to you.

Call the Kohn Law Firm Injury Attorneys if You Contracted COVID-19 at Work

The times we are living in may be unprecedented, but the basic requirements of employers to provide safe workspaces have not gone away. On the contrary, worker safety protections have increased, and employers have plenty of guidance to show them how to properly care for their workers and minimize the risk they could contract COVID-19 through the workplace. If you or a family member did get COVID-19 at work, it’s possible the employer is liable to you for your medical expenses, lost wages and other harm you have suffered. It’s worthwhile to speak with an experienced New York personal injury attorney for a free case evaluation. In the Bronx, call the Kohn Law Firm at 718-409-1200.

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