NYS Assembly Report Shines Spotlight on Needed Safety Improvements in NYC's Theater District

As reported by the New York Times today, 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 of 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 (3) 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.

Actors' Equity Association, stated: "Actors' Equity Association applauds Assembly Members Lancman, John, Destito and Brennan for holding the roundtable to address the emergency preparedness needs of the Broadway community and for the recommendations they propose to ensure the safety of every theatrical worker and audience member. Broadway is a vital part of what makes New York the preferred destination for thousands of visitors each year and it is the workplace for thousands more who work onstage, and backstage every day. We look forward to continue our work with them on workplace safety concerns in our industry.”

The Broadway League, representing theater owners and producers, stated: "The Broadway League looks forward to working with the Fire Department and other public officials, production companies and the theatre employee unions to ensure the safety of theatre employees and our patrons in the event of an emergency."

"We appreciated the opportunity to participate in this roundtable discussion with Assemblyman Lancman and theatre representatives to talk about ways to improve fire safety," New York City Fire Department Commissioner Cassano said. "We look forward to continuing these discussions and working cooperatively with everyone to make certain they're fully prepared in any emergency."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration stated: "OSHA believes that workers in the entertainment sector, like all others, are entitled to a safe & healthful workplace and we will continue to ensure that this is the case. As always, we will work with our state & local partners whenever possible. We appreciate Assemblyman Lancman's ongoing leadership and attention to the issues affecting worker safety and health in New York."