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9 May 2024

USA: Vote on heat protections in Florida that could set precedent for worker protections & employer sanctions delayed

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An upcoming vote by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners will take a final decision on a proposed heat standard to protect outdoor workers, in a first "comprehensive" local heat standard. Without a federal heat standard for employers, the measures could set an important precendent.

In Florida, a state which records the most heat-related hospitalisations, activists in Miami-Dade County have been campaigning for years for increased protections for workers. The proposal would require employers to implement heat safety programs, acclimatisation practices, first aid and emergency procedures, and rest breaks. Crucially, it would also create an enforcement arm at county level, slapping employers who violate the standard with financial penalties, possible suspension of county contracts and permits, requirements of extra training and inspections, and a public listing of violators.

However, aggressive lobbying from the construction and agriculture sectors has prompted concerns that wording in the bill is being watered down - limiting liability, lowering fines and increasing the heat standard during which the measures would apply.

In November 2023, Construction Dive reported the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in Florida delayed the vote until March 2024, to leave time for further debate.

In April 2024, Governor DeSantis singed a Bill into law that prevents city and county governments from requiring employers to protect outdoor workers from heat, outside those required under state or federal law. An article in KFF alleges this law will disproportionately impact Hispanic and migrant workers. A Guardian article includes interviews with workers in construction and farming who say heat exposure will worsen due to the bill.