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City Council passes southeast Queens councilman’s legislation to create COVID-19 worker safety guidelines

Southeast Queens Councilman I. Daneek Miller passed two pieces of legislation that would provide better information to frontline workers during the COVID crisis. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

A southeast Queens councilman recently had two pieces of legislation passed by the City Council that both aim to secure workplace protections for frontline workers.

Better guidance regarding safety could have saved many frontline workers who died since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Councilman I. Daneek Miller, who represents many of the southeast Queens neighborhoods where many essential workers reside.

One of the measures passed establishes a board to review workplace health and safety guidance for the duration of the pandemic and ensure that proper guidance is given to both municipal and private employees. The second bill amends the Administrative Code of the City of New York, creating new guidelines regarding disseminating occupational safety and health information to city employees during public health emergencies. The legislation also mandates an emergency bulletin with up-to-date health and safety guidance be distributed by the Citywide Office of Occupational Safety and Health, under the purview of the Department of Citywide Emergency Services.

“Unfortunately, it was a combination of mismanagement and unclear guidance that led to the death of many of the city’s workforce during the peak of this endemic,” Miller said. “This legislation will ensure that there are clear safety guidelines based on federal guidance, delivered efficiently and effectively to our target audiences. It is incumbent upon us to support the dedicated men and women that keep this city running and deliver services so seamlessly. I thank my colleagues for passing these crucial pieces of legislation.”

Miller chaired a recent Civil Service and Labor Committee oversight hearing on the state of labor during COVID-19. Many of the participants who testified on behalf of the city’s public and private workforce cited a lack of clear safety guidelines and procedures in their places of work, once again reaffirming the necessity of new guidelines.

“Providing proper guidance to employees during public health emergencies like COVID-19 is critical to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers,” Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, a co-sponsor of the measures, said. “I applaud Council Member Miller for his thoughtful legislation during these unprecedented times.”

Brooklyn Councilwoman Farah Louis also co-sponsored the legislation.

“New Yorkers faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were only exacerbated by limited access to current, credible information and resources,” she said. “As we continue to earn more about the virus, public health guidance is constantly changing and many New Yorkers are being left behind. During a crisis, every second counts to implement protocols that will keep our city’s workforce safe.”

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