Outdoor Workers Could Enjoy Greater Protection Under New Law That Targets Heat-Related Illness

Protection Under New Law That Targets Heat-Related IllnessEmployees who work outdoors are at heightened risk for a variety of illnesses and dangerous conditions, including heatstroke, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Some Florida legislators are working to change that with a new bill that would put preventive measures in place to keep workers safe from these conditions and require employers to complete annual training.

Legislation Follows Death of Florida Landscaper

The tragic death of a Florida landscaper in August 2018 shows how crucial this law is. The landscaper collapsed after six hours of lawn edging. An OSHA investigation found that the employee died of heat exhaustion. The heat index ranged from 97 to 105 degrees on that day, highlighting the risks that Florida employees face. The company that employed the landscaper is now potentially facing over $16,000 in fines.

Research also supports the need for this bill, which currently has no co-sponsors in the Florida House of Representatives. A study at Emory University found that nearly half of all farm workers in certain Florida communities began their work days dehydrated. Almost all study participants had dangerously high body temperatures by the end of their work day.

Safe Work Conditions for Those Working Outdoors

One aspect of the bill focuses on creating safer working conditions for those employed in farming, construction, and other outdoor industries. It would require that all outdoor workers have access to plentiful drinking water, receive 10-minute breaks after every two-hour period of outdoor labor, and shade. This is line with federal guidelines set by OSHA, which recommends that employers should take extra precautions when the heat index is 91 degrees or higher. The need to track temperature changes and humidity is one reason that documentation is essential for workers’ compensation.

Since Florida is one of the hottest states in the country, workers are at even greater risk of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Because of this, the law would require employers to give new employees two weeks to acclimatize to working in a hot outdoor environment.

Training and Education Requirements

If this bill passes, employers will have to meet annual training requirements. They would go through classes that show them how to identify signs of heat exhaustion and prevent heat-related illness.

There are some who find the legislation unnecessary, including those who represent employers in the landscaping industry. The CEO of the Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association claims that most employers already meet these guidelines and have significant motivation to avoid illness or injury.

Advocates of the bill note that many employers do already take steps to keep employees safe. They note that the bill is not for those employers—it’s for those who put productivity over employee well-being and safety.

Have You Suffered an Injury or Illness at Work? We’re Here to Help

A work-related injury or illness can leave you unsure of your employment status, limit your earning ability, and lead to unexpected medical bills. Scott J. Sternberg & Associates is here for you. Call our West Palm Beach office at 561-687-5660 to schedule a consultation with an attorney.

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