September 26, 2023

“Hot” Issues in Workplace Safety: OSHA Standards and Heat-Related Illness Prevention in Florida

Working outdoors in Florida can be a challenge, particularly during the summer months when temperatures soar, and humidity can be high. This situation can be dangerous for workers, often leading to heat exhaustion, dehydration, and even heat stroke.  

As a labor and employment defense attorney, it is my job to understand the state regulations relating to outdoor working conditions in Florida, particularly regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) standards. I then guide my clients toward risk-avoidant policies and decisions, minimizing the potential for accidents. There are numerous requirements specific to Florida that every employer should know.  

OSHA Guidelines for Florida Employers 

OSHA has specific regulations and guidelines that employers must follow to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees. In Florida, employers must comply with the OSHA Heat Illness Prevention guidelines and take appropriate measures to prevent heat-related illnesses. These measures may include providing access to water, shade, and rest breaks, training employees on signs of heat-related illnesses, and implementing an acclimatization system to help employees adapt to working in high temperatures gradually. 

Miami-Dade County Goes One Step Further 

There is a bill pending in Miami-Dade County that, if approved in its current form, would mandate that construction and agriculture companies employing five or more workers provide essential measures to prevent heat-related illnesses. Specifically, these companies would need to guarantee access to water for their workers and allow breaks in shaded areas when the heat index reaches or exceeds ninety degrees. Furthermore, employers would have the responsibility to train workers in recognizing the signs of heat illness, impart first aid knowledge, and emphasize the proper procedure to request emergency assistance.  

The bill’s future is not guaranteed, as amendments are being made in response to industry resistance, which largely relates to the potential for hefty penalties. Balancing the interests of worker safety and the concerns of employers will be crucial in finding a consensus and obtaining approval.   

Every Employer Should Begin with These Actions 

Employers should be aware of the hazards associated with exposure to excessive heat and implement adequate measures to mitigate these risks. This may involve conducting hazard assessments and taking appropriate steps to reduce the risks of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other heat-related illnesses. Employers should also review their policies and procedures to ensure that they comply with OSHA regulations and guidelines. 

How Can Employers Help Employees? 

It is essential that employees understand the risks of working in hot outdoor conditions and are trained in the warning signs of heat-related illnesses. By educating employees and implementing preventative measures, employers can reduce the risks of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other related illnesses, leading to a healthier and more productive workforce. 

As a labor and employment defense attorney, I advise our clients on OSHA’s expectations and assist in developing proactive measures necessary to ensure compliance with safety standards. With the proper guidance, employers can protect their employees and avoid costly OSHA penalties and legal disputes and maintain a productive work environment.  

Are you a business owner or risk manager? Call me today to discuss the OSHA regulations that impact you and to ensure your business complies with the latest safety standards in Florida. 

Angelo M. Filippi
Partner, Labor & Employement
Kelley Kronenberg-Fort Lauderdale, FL.
(954) 370-9970