Miami-Dade voted to defer outdoor workers heat protection bill

DORAL, FL – Miami-Dade County Commissioners voted 8 to 2 to defer the bill, for a second time, on Tuesday aimed at increasing protections for outdoor workers.

If the bill had passed it would have required employers in the agriculture and construction industries to provide water, rest and shade to their outdoor employees or else facing penalties and fines. If they would accumulate, the employer wouldn’t be able to take on lucrative county contracts.

The proposed bill passed on first reading in September following several heat advisories issued last summer that jeopardized outdoor workers wellbeing and even brought fatalities, which ultimately led to protests and pressure to give initial approval for heat standards

But this time it didn’t have enough support to get final approval. Some commissioners thought the new regulations wouldn’t cover sufficient people, while others were against creating additional county jobs and costs to jobs to enforce new rules, according to a Miami Herald report.

Other reasons behind the deferral had to do with the fact that the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA), that recommends employers to provide water, rest and shade to outdoor workers despite the absence of laws on this matter in Florida, is working on a federal rule to protect outdoor workers nationwide, which suggests the passing of a local mandate would be replaced by the OSHA federal standard.

In addition, several commissioners, according to the report, indicated the state would probably block the bill during the next legislative session in Tallahassee if it were to pass. 

The County Commissioners vote was followed by a campaign for heat protections led mostly by WeCount!, a South Florida advocacy group primarily representing farm workers. Oscar Londoño, its co-director, said people in Tuesday’s meeting were confused about the role of OSHA and their current protections. 

“It’s unfortunate that we’re seeing commissioners on that dais repeating industry talking points,” he said to the Miami Herald. “OSHA doesn’t have the power, the resources or staffing to meaningfully enforce extreme heat, and industry is counting on that.”

If this bill proposal is deferred one more time when the item returns in March, it would be cancelled and would have to be placed back in the agenda from zero. 



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