HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – A new law passed by the Suffolk County Legislature will guarantee rest periods for utility safety employees. IR 1742-19 was introduced by Deputy Presiding Officer Rob Calarco and was passed with unanimous approval at the December 17th General Meeting. Utility safety workers are responsible for locating and marking utility mains during construction. Under current rules, utility safety workers are expected to work a regular shift and respond to emergency situations. Workers who work an emergency shift are still required to attend their next regularly schedule shift. This sometimes leads to workers being expected to work long shifts, including overtime, on as little as two hours of rest.
The new rules will require that utility safety workers receive at least eight consecutive hours of rest after working an emergency shift. It also prohibits employers from punishing employees if that eight hour rest period interferes with their next regularly scheduled shift. The legislation identifies sleep deprivation as a cause of disorientation and illness that can lead to workers missing critically important locations while marking. Missed locations can lead to dangerous situations for workers and the public. It can also delay projects and increase costs when additional repairs must be made.
“Utility safety workers serve a critical role in maintaining a safe environment during construction and utility work,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Calarco. “An overly tired worker can easily miss a critical underground utility main with catastrophic results. This is a common sense way to make sure that we are protecting the health, safety, and wellness of workers who are doing really important work, sometimes in dangerous and very difficult conditions”
Michael Gendron, Executive Vice President of the Communications Workers of America Local 1108, brought the issue to the attention of Calarco and was a vocal advocate for the measure.
“The hard working men and women who provide utility location services do a vital job that keep our communities safe,” added Gendron. “Many times they must answer emergency on call assignments that have them working throughout the evening and early mornings. They should not have to work their next scheduled tour after working overnight because that puts them and the general public in harm's way. I.R. 1742 keeps everyone safe by mandating 8 hours rest before they have to report back to work. Legislator Calarco has once again shown he is a champion for worker's rights and safety!”
The Suffolk County Department of Labor, Licensing, and Consumer Affairs will be empowered under the new rules to investigate and enforce violations of the law. Complaints by workers can be filed up to one year after a violation. Employers who violate the law can be fined $500 for an initial violation, $750 for a second, and $1,000 for each successive violation thereafter. The rules will not apply to any worker who is covered by a collective bargaining agreement that expressly waives the rules.