heat desantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may have crashed and burned in the Presidential primary race, but he’s leading the pack for the nation’s worst, most anti-labor Governor.

Last week, DeSantis signed legislation that would forbid Florida cities and counties from

  • establishing heat exposure ordinances to protect workers (or even educate them)
  • establishing employee scheduling regulations
  • setting minimum wages or benefits above the state level
  • choosing government contractors based on wage or benefit levels
  • regulating wages or benefits through government contracts.

The Florida heat law will take effect on July 1, right smack in the middle of the hot Florida summer. Florida is the hottest state in the United States. And,

From 2010 to 2020, the University of Florida recorded 215 heat-related deaths occurred in Florida, with the number of yearly deaths varied between 10 and 28.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, average annual heat-related deaths have risen 95% from 2010 to 2022.

Florida is projected to experience more days of extreme heat this summer (when temperatures are at least 95 degrees), compared to averages over the last 30 years, according to the Florida Climate Center at Florida State University.

As the Miami Herald reports:

With the stroke of the governor’s pen, local governments in Florida are now blocked from requiring heat protections for outdoor workers, driving a stake through the heart of Miami-Dade County’s efforts to keep farmworkers and construction workers safe from extreme heat. Gov. Ron DeSantis quietly signed the bill (HB 433) into law late Thursday night, along with a host of other small bills, despite a Democrat-led campaign for a veto. The result: cities and counties in Florida can no longer mandate employers to offer water, rest and shade to their outdoor employees on hot days.

The heat bill was in response to Miami-Dade County’s earlier flirtation with a worker heat protection ordinance that would have protected the county’s estimated 300,000 outdoor workers. (County commissioners later tabled the ordinance, succumbing to threats of economic disaster and job loss from the business community.)

DeSantis to Workers: Try Not to Kill Yourselves.

The law itself is a pack of lies, claiming, for example, that “OSHA has imposed and enforced standards and regulations governing workplace heat exposure for more than two decades and currently creates and publishes best practices.”

Federal OSHA actually does not have a heat standard and is unlikely to issue one for several years.

The text of the bill is illuminating (in a very depressing sort of way). First, there’s not one word in the law recognizing the possibility that extreme heat is dangerous — even deadly — for workers. The only concern is for burdened employers.

The problem, according to the legislation,  is that “having a patchwork of local workplace heat exposure standards and regulations [would make] compliance difficult and burdensome on employers and employees and may impede commerce throughout the state.”

Now first, one might think that the best way to eliminate a burdensome “patchwork” of ordinances would be uniform state-wide requirements that apply to all employers.

And what about the difficulty and burden that a preventable illness or death might place on employees or their families? Crickets.

The bill also blames workers for any heat-related illness they may experience. 

But that’s not the worst part. The bill also blames workers for any heat-related illness they may experience.

The preamble  states that ordinances like the one Miami-Dade was considering would “ignore the individual responsibility of an employee to follow relevant guidelines and to protect himself or herself from heat-related illnesses.” [emphasis added]

Right, so if a farmworker or construction workers gets sick or dies from working in high heat, it’s their fault because they didn’t seek their own shade, rest or water. This is the classic “blame the worker” strategy.

Of course, they make a good point. If all workers were allowed to take any action they need to protect themselves from health and safety hazards — without fear of retaliation or loss of pay —  you wouldn’t need laws and regulations, especially if all workers were also allowed to belong to unions.

But that’s not the world we live in — especially in Florida. In the real world, workers aren’t allowed to take breaks or get water whenever they need it. There’s often no cool shade available for farm workers (unless employers provide it). Neither workers nor employers are trained, nor do they likely have emergency response plans for when a worker succumbs to the heat.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The bill doesn’t just prohibit local ordinances that would require employers to provide water, shade and rest to workers, it even blocks localities from requiring training or “Posting or distributing notices or materials relating to heat exposure which inform employees how to protect themselves from such exposure. ”

So not only are workers to blame for not protecting themselves from heat, but the law prohibits them from receiving any mandated training or information on the hazards of heat or how to protect themselves.

Not only are workers to blame for not protecting themselves from heat, but the law prohibits them from receiving any mandated training or information on the hazards of heat or how to protect themselves.

There’s also a tiny provision hidden in the bill offering a futile attempt for Florida legislators to save face:

If the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not adopted by rule requirements regulating workplace heat exposure by July 1, 2028, the Department of Commerce must adopt by rule statewide workplace heat exposure requirements. Such rules must be consistent with the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in effect at the time the Department of Commerce adopts its rules, modified as necessary to reflect workplace heat exposure considerations specific to this state. The Legislature must ratify such rules before they take effect.

So, to translate. If federal OSHA still hasn’t issued a standard by July 2028,(A certainty if there’s a second Trump term, and a definite possibility even if there’s a second Biden term.), the Florida Department of Commerce must issue a standard “consistent with what OSHA has in effect” (which would, by definition, be nothing).

But that rule could be modified “to reflect workplace heat exposure considerations specific to the state.”

What are exposure situations specific to Florida? How about this: “Florida recorded its hottest-ever July and August. The heat index, a measure that incorporates both temperature and humidity, stayed above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 46 days in a row in Miami.”

And finally, of course, the (Republican) legislature would have to ratify the rules. (Don’t hold your breath.)


DeSantis claimed he wasn’t to blame; he was just doing Miami-Dade employers a favor.

Asked about the bill Friday, DeSantis said it was an issue raised by Miami-Dade County lawmakers.

“It really wasn’t anything that was coming from me. There was a lot of concern out of one county — Miami-Dade,” DeSantis said. “They were pursuing what was going to cause a lot of problems down there.”

But the law will now keep Florida’s 66 other counties from requiring similar worker protections.

This is not an academic exercise. Heat kills and DeSantis and Florida Republicans are standing in the way of saving workers lives:

Lupe Gonzalo knows this reality well. She used to pick tomatoes in Florida during the summer and she’d find herself woozy from the heat. Sometimes she’d cramp up or get piercing headaches. Gonzalo shoved bottles of water into every pocket, but even that wasn’t nearly enough to get her through the day. Some colleagues, she says, went to the hospital with heat exhaustion—and some even died.

“Without water, without rests, without shade, the body of a worker—it resents it,” Gonzalo says in Spanish.

The heat has already caused problems this spring. Samuel Nava, a landscaper from Homestead, Florida, says in March his coworker collapsed with heat-induced cramps. Nava helped him get to the emergency room.

A Little Good News

Before you slit your wrists, there is a little good news out there.

First, let’s go to Arizona, which is known to be a hot state:

Phoenix, Arizona, passed a landmark rule this week that will provide protections from extreme heat for thousands of outdoor workers in the hottest US city.

In a unanimous 7-0 vote, Phoenix city council passed an ordinance on Tuesday requiring employers to provide access to rest, shade, water and air conditioning, as well as training on recognizing signs of heat stress. The rule applies to city contractors and their subcontractors who work outdoors, including construction and airport workers.

The ordinance is estimated to protect over 10,000 outdoor workers.

Arizona, passed a landmark rule this week that will provide protections from extreme heat for thousands of outdoor workers in the hottest US city.

Needless to say, the business community was not pleased. The Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America issued a letter opposing the regulation.

The ordinance is redundant and mitigation is already covered under the attached Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) State Emphasis Program (SEP) – Outdoor and Indoor Heat‐Related Hazards.  Furthermore, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is contemplating similar regulations.

Note: A “Special Emphasis Program” is not a standard. It simply puts more emphasis and resources on enforcing heat protections under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which is legally burdensome and usually only used after a worker has gotten sick or died. And contemplation of a standard makes no one safer.

Happily, Arizona has a Democratic Governor who cares about workers. So a bill preempting local ordinances in Arizona won’t happen. Elections have consequences.

And just to the north of Arizona, Nevada OSHA has begun process of adopting a new regulation protecting workers from heat hazards.

Maryland OSHA is also in the process of issuing heat regulations

Finally, despite the obstacles OSHA faces without a standard, they are managing to issue some citations under the General Duty Clause. Last week, OSHA cited a Florida farm contractor for the heat-related death of an employee. The worker died last September on his first day on the job.

“This young man’s life ended on his first day on the job because his employer did not fulfill its duty to protect employees from heat exposure, a known and increasingly dangerous hazard,” explained OSHA Area Director Condell Eastmond in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Had McNeill Labor Management made sure its workers were given time to acclimate to working in brutally high temperatures with required rest breaks, the worker might not have suffered a fatal injury.”

McNeill Labor Management faces $27,655 in proposed penalties, the maximum penalty for a “serious” OSHA violation. (The company is contesting the violation.)

Would this worker be alive today if Florida had a state law requiring rest, shade and water for workers working in high heat, as well as training for employers and workers?

OSHA Resources

Finally, although Ron DeSantis doesn’t really want you to know this, OSHA has a number of helpful materials that workers can use to figure out how to protect themselves (or that employers can also use to protect their workers.)

Check out OSHA’s heat webpage here. Also note that OSHA and NIOSH have a handy, easy-to-use heat app, that will tell you the heat index (temperature plus humidity) where you’re working, what level of hazard it presents, and what needs to be done to protect workers. Use it.

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