ASSE Pushes for Occupational Safety and Health Coverage for Florida Public Sector Workers

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) announced it will assist its Florida members in pushing for legislation requiring all Florida cities, counties, municipalities, school districts, state agencies and special districts comply with OSHA standards providing occupational safety and health coverage for public sector workers as recommended by the Florida Public Task Force on Workplace Safety’s December 2008 final report to the state legislature and governor.

ASSE professional member Ed Granberry Jr., of Winter Park, Fla., will help lead the effort as member coordinator. “As a safety professional, I can’t think of a better way to reflect ASSE members’ commitment to advancing workplace safety and health than making sure we work together to get safety and health coverage for public sector workers in Florida,” he said.

The need for this legislation grew out of mounting concerns for government worker safety following the tragic 2006 explosion at the Daytona Beach, Fla., municipal water treatment plant that killed two city workers and severely injured another. A report and recommendations made by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) into the Daytona Beach explosion that found Florida's lack of required occupational safety and health coverage for its public sector employees was a cause of the workers' deaths prompted the legislation.

In the 2008 session of the Florida legislature, ASSE members working together championed bi-partisan legislation sponsored by Senator Evelyn Lynn (R-Ormond Beach) and Representative Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) and signed into law last June by Governor Crist that created the Florida Public Task Force on Workplace Safety. The task force was charged with making recommendations to determine how best to provide occupational safety and health coverage to Florida’s state, county and municipal workers.

In its recommendations, the Florida Public Task Force on Workplace Safety also called for the state to require all Florida public employers to collect and retain injury and illness data as incidents occur, using the OSHA recordable criteria and form 300; that the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation expand its annual report to include a “state-of-the-state” report covering all public entities.

The report card should list each employer’s workers’ compensation claim costs, injury totals, injury incident rate per 100 employees and fatalities; the state to provide a confidential toll-free phone number for public employers and employees to ask questions, report perceived unsafe working conditions, and request materials and assistance; and, that the Division of Workers’ Compensation compile a list of professional safety resources to help public employers strengthen workplace safety programs.

ASSE members countrywide are concerned that an estimated 8.5 million public sector workers in 26 states and the District of Columbia do not currently receive the same federal level of workplace safety protections that all private sector workers are guaranteed by law. In Florida it is estimated that there are 195,968 state government employees and 782,242 local government employees.

CSB recently issued a new safety video on this issue. To learn more, read CSB Urges OSHA Coverage for All Public Employees.
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