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Florida legislators are endangering those who work in the heat

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Personal Injury |

Several states on the West Coast have paved the way for greater protection of workers who operate outside. Specifically, when temperatures rise, workers in several states now benefit from legal protections designed to safeguard them from heat-related illness and injury. Work-related access to shade, mandatory water breaks and screening for heat-related health conditions are now the law in some parts of the U.S. 

Unfortunately, Texas and Florida legislators have decided to “go another way.” Texas passed a law last year that prohibits local governments from requiring these kinds of protections that workers in California and Oregon now enjoy. Florida is poised to pass a bill into law that would achieve the same end. This could potentially lead some workers to file personal injury claims against the state if they suffer harm that could have been prevented had localities been allowed to mitigate the risks of heat-related injury and illness. 

What is going on?

The Florida Senate has approved a bill that would prohibit municipalities from adopting or enforcing measures that would safeguard workers from the effects of heat. Given how hot many areas of Florida get, this is a stunning turn of events. The bill also prohibits retaliation protection for workers who report heat-related concerns, as well as heat-exposure training programs and requirements to track heat-related concerns. 

The bill is opposed by labor organizations that understandably support safety measures for construction workers, agricultural workers and others who often toil under the sometimes oppressive Florida sun. 

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the legislative process related to this issue is that advocates insist that the legislation will allow for uniform requirements as set by federal law. While this is ordinarily a legitimate position from which to argue, the federal agency tasked with setting requirements – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – has not issued any federal rules on the subject. Therefore, the “uniform rules” in place across Florida are none at all at this time.

For now, workers will need to see if the House passes this bill and whether the governor signs it into law. If this happens, the law will take effect on July 1 of this year. If so, workers who experience heat-related harm on the job will have fewer opportunities for recourse moving forward. With that said, suing the state if preventable heat-related injury or illness leads to physical harm could be a possibility in some cases. 



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