Miami-Dade County promotes new rules to protect workers from extreme heat

MIAMI (TodayNews) — Due to record heat waves in Florida and the rest of the US, Miami-Dade County officials are taking action to protect about 80,000 outdoor construction and farm workers.

On Tuesday, the Miami-Dade County Commission gave initial approval to new heat standards for outdoor workers as dozens of workers and activists attended a rally to support the new rules, according to the Miami Herald. It still has to pass a committee vote and a final vote before a full commission to become law. Such proposals have failed in recent years.

Commissioner Kionn McGee, the bill’s sponsor, spoke during a press conference about his own experiences growing up in rural Miami-Dade and working as a bean picker alongside his mother.

“One death under a scorching sun is too many,” McGee said. “Give these people what they need, what I didn’t have as a child, namely water, protection from the sun, shade.”

The new regulation will require businesses in Miami-Dade County to provide workers with water and a 10-minute shade break every two hours on days when the heat index hits 90 degrees. Companies will also have to train workers and thermal safety supervisors. Companies that repeatedly fail to comply with this requirement can be fined up to $3,000 per violation per day.

At least two farm workers have died this year due to heat-related problems in South Florida. The heatwave kills an average of 34 people a year and hospitalizes hundreds more in Miami-Dade, reports show.

More than 300,000 people work on the street in Miami-Dade County, while the new rules only affect about 80,000 people in construction and farming. Outdoor workers are 35 times more likely to die from heat-related illnesses than the general population.

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