NYS Assembly Report Spotlights Needed Safety Improvements in NYC's Theater District
By Neal Tepel
January 12, 2011
As reported by the New York Times January 12, 2011, the New York State Assembly released a report detailing recommendations for stakeholders on improving emergency preparedness for theater district employees in the wake of the May 1, 2010 attempted car bombing in Times Square.
The botched terrorist attack highlighted concerns among theater district employees that existing emergency preparedness and
evacuation plans and procedures present a workplace safety hazard and are in need careful reexamination to ensure workplace safety. The report's findings were based on the outcome of an Assembly Legislative Roundtable discussion on December 6, 2010, jointly hosted by the Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety, and Committees on Labor, Governmental Operations and Cities. Roundtable participants included representatives from the NYC Fire Department, OSHA, Theater Owners, Theater Employee Unions and the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM).
Highlighted recommendations from the report include that: (1) the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues clearer guidance on which theaters are required to establish Emergency Action Plans (2) OSHA increase the number of inspections of theaters to ensure that compliance with existing OSHA emergency preparedness requirements are enforced; (3) Theater Owners and Producers require that their employees participate in compensated emergency preparedness training during regular working hours at least once every six months; and (4) the NYC Fire Department, which is currently reviewing new emergency preparedness standards in the NYC Fire Code, solicit the views and participation of theater workers, owners and producers in formulating the new Code.
Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens), Chair of the Subcommittee on Workplace Safety, stated: "Theater employees are entitled to a safe workplace, and this means that emergency preparedness plans be put in place — and tested — before they are needed. I'm pleased that theater owners and producers are coming together with the support of city and federal government agencies to improve their readiness to confront emergency events in a way that is safer both for theater employees and patrons."
"As Chair of the Assembly Governmental Operations Committee, I believe all areas of our state and especially New York City's Theater District, which is located in one of the world's most populated and visited areas, must be kept safe and secure," Assemblywoman RoAnn M. Destito (D/WF-Rome) explained. "Our analysis and this report highlights the issues that needed to be addressed, and I was pleased that we had the proper federal, state and local agencies and their staff at the table because they are no better prepared to address the needs of those New Yorkers we want to protect."
"The safety of all workers in New York City is of utmost concern, and the theater community is no exception. I am pleased that owners and producers are willing to address this issue for the protection of all who work in and attend the theater," said Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Cities Committee.
Broadway is a vital part of what makes New York City the preferred destination for many thousands of visitors each year. It is also the workplace for thousands more in the entertainment industry. We must ensure that the Broadway Theater District remain safe for all.