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Florida State Workers Have No Safety Rules

Public-sector workers in Florida have no workplace safety\r\nstandards or enforcement until at least March 2001 because of the elimination of the Division of Safety.

Public-sector workers in Florida have no workplace safety standards or enforcement until at least March 2001 because Gov. Jeb Bush eliminated the Division of Safety in a reorganization bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature.

The sunset provision was contained in S. 230, a bill that was signed into law June 8, 1999.

Despite last minute maneuvering in the 2000 legislative session, which ended May 5, language reauthorizing the safety agency was not approved.

A bill that would have transferred the responsibilities of the Safety Division to the Division of Workers'' Compensation also died in the session.

Florida''s Legislature will not reconvene until March 2001.

The private-sector safety program, which was eliminated, will resume Sept. 30 under the auspices of the University of South Florida in Tampa, using $1.5 million in federal OSHA funds that previously had gone to the Division of Safety.

The program provides free consultation, including work site evaluation and training, to small employers.

The program has hired 13 staff members trained in either industrial hygiene or safety, all of whom are former Division of Safety employees, according to the university.

What about the public-sector employees? Jeanette Wynn, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Florida, said the union is concerned about the lack of standards and any kind of effort for employees.

"There''s no recourse for our employees other than contract language. Our employees are out in the cold," said Wynn.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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