Controversy as DeSantis Signs Bill to Prohibit Heat Protection Laws for Outdoor Workers

Controversy as DeSantis Signs Bill to Prohibit Heat Protection Laws for Outdoor Workers

A bill prohibiting local governments from enforcing heat protection for outdoor workers was signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday.

The Florida governor chose to quietly sign the contentious bill and make the announcement along with nine other bills on Thursday night, instead of signing it at a news conference as he usually does.

The bill prohibits local governments from requiring businesses to “meet or provide heat exposure requirements beyond those required by law.”

It was passed by the Florida Senate in March 2024. An legislation that would have required firms to give workers access to water and shade on very hot days was considered by Miami-Dade County commissioners last year, but it was postponed until this spring.

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After years of activism by local workers’ rights organizations in response to heat-related illnesses and fatalities in sectors including construction and agriculture, the legislation was finally passed.

As of right now, neither federal nor state legislation protect outdoor workers from heat exposure.

The proponent of the measure, Sen. Jay Trumbell (R-Panama City), stated, “The intent of the bill is to ensure that employers have the ability to govern themselves and make sure they create the best working environment for their employees.”

The bill was opposed by the public, many of whom felt that local governments ought to be able to establish their own guidelines depending on the local climate.

“Let’s face reality. We have bad actors out there. Don’t kid yourself,” The senator from Kissimmee, Victor Torres, stated. “OSHA can only do so much. Is OSHA everywhere in the state, to where you can say a phone call will have somebody respond to that location? No. They don’t have enough manpower.”

The new law is a result of 2023 being the warmest year on record, with weeks of unbearable humidity and triple-digit temperatures in the southern parts of the country.