Florida Bill Addresses Government Worker Safety

On June 10, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law a bill aimed at improving the safety of the state’s government workers, who currently are not protected by federal OSHA standards.

The measure, HB 967, creates a 15-member task force that will make recommendations determining how to best provide occupational safety and health coverage to Florida’s state, county and municipal workers. Currently, federal OSHA standards apply only to private-sector workers.

State Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, and state Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, sponsored this bi-partisan legislation that lawmakers passed this spring.

According to the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), which championed the bill, the urgency for this legislation grew out of concerns for government worker safety following the tragic 2006 explosion at the Daytona Beach municipal water treatment plant. The blast killed two city workers and severely injured another. The ensuing U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) investigation found Florida's lack of required occupational safety and health coverage for its public sector employees was a cause of the workers' deaths. CSB’s report and recommendations can be found at http://www.csb.gov/index.cfm?folder=completed_investigations&page=info&INV_ID=57.

“This effort signals an understanding in difficult economic times for Florida that finding a way to protect its government workers on the job is not only a moral imperative, it is also a way to ensure that Florida government works as well as the best public sector corporations who find bottom-line value in providing occupational safety and health protections to employees,” said ASSE President Michael W. Thompson.

Approximately 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. An estimated 195,968 state government employees and 782,242 local government employees work in Florida.

The new legislation calls on the Florida governor, Senate president and House of Representatives speaker to each appoint five members to the task force. Appointed members will represent a variety of interests, including safety, health and environmental professionals, business organizations, state government, academia and related organizations.

Florida native Edwin Granberry Jr., ASSE’s volunteer Region IV vice president for government affairs, helped lead member efforts to pass this legislation.

“Our Florida members work with their employers to ensure costs for safety and health-related issues like workers compensation, lost worker time and health insurance costs are kept low by protecting workers,” Granberry said. “We are confident that this task force will make sure Florida’s taxpayers are similarly well served.”

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