Today's date is August 4, 2020

Outdoor Workers Applaud Florida Heat Stress Protection Bills

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Tallahassee, FL –  Advocates for health and safety protections for outdoor workers are applauding Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith and Senator Victor Torres for the introduction of HB 513 which implements critical workplace protections related to heat stress. Traveling from Central and South Florida, worker groups announced their support towards taking a crucial step to ensuring workers receive common sense protections from the dangers of exposure to Florida’s high heat and humidity that can lead to illness and even death.

Key Provisions of HB 513 say employers shall:

  • Implement an outdoor heat exposure safety program approved by DACS & DOH
  • Provide annual heat exposure training to employees & supervisors approved by DACS & DOH
  • Ensure free access to drinking water for employees working in temps at or above 90 degrees
  • Ensure 10-minute breaks every 2 hours for employees working in temps at or above 90 degrees
  • Ensure access to shade for employees working in temps at or above 80 degrees

Representative Smith offered the following statement:
“As the sunshine state, Florida should be leading the nation in protecting outdoor workers who are at high risk for heat illness. All employers should adopt common sense procedures to ensure their workers have access to cool water, shade and short breaks during periods of intense heat. That includes worker and supervisor training on how to identify symptoms of heat stress and how to administer first aid to affected workers on the job.”

Senator Torres offered the following statement:

“As one of the warmest states in the country, Florida has the additional problem of generally high humidity which can make the ‘what the temperature feels like’ – or the heat index – dangerous for people working or playing outdoors.  With tourism, construction, and agriculture being key economic drivers in the state, these bills would protect workers in industries, such as landscaping, roofing and building trades, farm work, road work and golf course maintenance workers.” 

The worker organizations cite the fact that the military and athletic organizations have recognized the dangers that strenuous work in the heat poses and that they have already implemented standards to protect their recruits and personnel from illness or death from heat exposure.

Jonathan Fried, Executive Director of WeCount! offered the following statement:

“California and Washington state have acknowledged the risk of heat exposure to workers and have adopted standards to protect workers. With the hottest summer on record in Florida just behind us, Florida must do a better job of ensuring safe workplaces for those doing the work the rest of us depend on.”

Jeannie Economos of the Farmworker Association of Florida offered the following statement:

“A Haitian farmworker harvesting tomatoes in Southwest Florida died of heat stress a few years ago. Co-workers and the supervisor were never trained in how to recognize and treat the symptoms of heat exposure. The worker was found dead in the vehicle that transported workers to and from the fields. This should never happen again.”

Karen Woodall of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy offered the following statement:

“We have an opportunity now to protect workers in Florida. Everyone felt the extreme heat of the summer of 2019.  We can expect to see increasingly high temperatures for the foreseeable future.  Simple protections can avoid worker deaths. This is a public health issue.”

Jeanette Smith, Executive Director of the South FL Interfaith Worker Justice offered the following statement:

“The faith community understands that when we protect workers, we protect families of those workers.  It is only right and just that we care as much for the workers as for the work that they do.”

Jose Delgado has spent the last 30 years working under the Florida sun in farmwork and construction.  A year ago, after a day of work on a farm, he had a heat-related health crisis that sent him to the hospital. “The heat has broken me down physically.” Delgado states. “It’s gotten too hot. Those of us doing manual labor in the sun need protections.”

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