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Another State Blocks Heat Protections for Workers

Florida joins Texas in halting local attempts to create protective rules.

April 16, 2024

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that bans local governments from creating protections for workers who labor in the state’s heat. Florida joins Texas, a state whose government last year also passed a similar law in limiting the power of local governments to require heat and water breaks for outdoor workers.

Florida, one of the hottest U.S. states, has an estimated 2 million outdoor workers in industries including construction and agriculture. The new law is a direct response to proposed regulations from Florida’s Miami-Dade County to require shade and water for construction, farm, and other outdoor workers. Miami-Dade County is home to an estimated 325,000 outdoor workers alone.

But the new law blocks heat protections from being implemented in cities and counties across Florida. The loss of the local rule was a blow to Miami-Dade activists and workers who had hoped the county heat protection rules would be in place before summer.

Last year, the U.S. experienced its hottest summer on record, and Florida logged its hottest-ever July and August. The heat index, a measure that incorporates temperature and humidity, stayed greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 46 consecutive days in Miami.

Currently, no federal rules regulate when it’s too hot to work, and thousands of heat-related injuries and dozens of deaths are reported across the U.S. annually. U.S. employers do have a federal mandate to keep workers safe on the job, and recommendations for how to do so, including protecting workers from extreme heat. The guidance, though, doesn’t explain exactly what those protections are or what to do when limits are surpassed.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began working on national rules targeting heat in 2021, but a new OSHA rule takes years to implement. Across the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 436 heat-related worker deaths between 2011 and 2021.

A few states and local governments in the U.S. have attempted to create some heat protections. California was the first to establish regulations in 2006. The state requires employers to provide shade, rest breaks, and access to cool, clean water for outdoor workers. In 2021, Washington and Oregon created worker protections from heat as well.

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