Florida, Nation’s Hottest State, Abandons Workers

11 Mar 2024

For immediate release

Contact:  Roger Kerson, roger@nationalcosh.org, 734.645.0535

Florida, Nation’s Hottest State, Abandons Workers 

Legislature Bans Heat Protections, 
Ignores Risks of Working in Extreme Heat

LOS ANGELES — “Florida is the hottest state, making it the furnace of the nation, yet too many of its legislators are choosing to bury their heads in the sand,” said Jessica E. Martinez, MPH, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). “In passing a heartless, unnecessary, and shortsighted bill, elected officials are turning their backs on workers and disregarding the dangers of working outdoors in searing heat.”

On Friday March 8, Republican majorities in the Florida legislature passed a bill that would ban local jurisdictions from requiring employers to provide water, rest, shade and other workplace protections from extreme heat. Due to ongoing climate change, rising temperatures create serious health risks in both indoor and outdoor work settings.

Members of We Count, a National COSH affiliate, are leading a dynamic campaign to win protections for agricultural and construction workers in Miami-Dade County.

“We stand firmly behind the brave members of We Count, who are courageously striving to achieve what every worker rightfully deserves: a safe workplace, free from known hazards.,” said Martinez. “And we could not be more outraged at the actions of the Florida legislature. Instead of carrying water for industry lobbyists, elected officials should be making sure life-saving water is available to the millions of workers who feed and house Florida families – and who put big profits in the pockets of their employers.”

Exposure to extreme heat accounts for as many 2,000 preventable worker deaths each year in the U.S., and as many as 170,000 workplace injuries and illnesses, according to a report from Public Citizen.

Practical, common-sense measures such as providing ready access to clean potable water, regular rest breaks and shade protection can save lives and reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and related illnesses.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have a specific standard to protect workers from exposure to extreme heat. A regulatory process is underway and will take several years to complete.

Martinez expressed dismay, stating, "The prospect of it taking years to implement nationwide heat protections is appalling. Preventing local jurisdictions from acting promptly is not only short-sighted and unjust but also exposes workers to needless risks."

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit nationalcosh.org. Follow us @NationalCOSH on Facebook, @NationalCOSH on X and @NationalCOSH on Instagram.