Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Orlando state legislators are pushing a bill to protect workers in the extreme heat

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 4:10 PM

click image Workers packing cabbage in Hastings. - WIKI COMMONS/STATE LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES OF FLORIDA
Study after study has found that heat stress leads to increases in occupational injury, heatstroke, and other ailments for outdoor workers.

There's already little doubt in Floridians' minds that prolonged exposure to intense heat while working is unhealthy.

"You feel that heat," said state Sen. Vic Torres (D-Orlando). "Imagine working out there eight, 10, 12 hours in the heat."

That’s the reality for many Central Florida workers, people who contribute labor that society needs to continue to functioning, work that feeds us and makes life better for everyone.

"It’s just common sense to help the workers out there to be safe, and that employers have the requirements they need," said Torres.

Torres and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) announced heat-stress day at the state capitol, in coordination with the Farmworker Association of Florida, immigrant coalition WeCount!, the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, and South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice.
click image Senator Victor Torress - PHOTO VIA VIC TORRESS @VICTORRES_FL
The legislation and announcement, said Torres, are intended to raise public awareness of heat stress.

The bill, SB 513, which will be presented first in a Florida House hearing and then in a Senate hearing, would require employers to provide laborers working in the heat with water, breaks and ample shade.

Torres said the heat-stress legislation group is also open for creative ways for workers to cool down, like taking a page from high school football programs that provide players with a body-size tank of water to dunk themselves in and lower their body heat.
Heat stress has been an ongoing problem for warm-weather laborers, but climate change, said Torres, has exacerbated the issue. Days are longer and hotter, he noted, and the summer weather in Florida keeps extending further into the fall.

Despite the high temperatures, we all still expect workers to show up and fix our roofs and streets, pick our produce and mow our lawns.

"Sometimes, people take it for granted," said Torres. "We gotta be cognizant and we have to offer whatever relief we can."

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