On March 1, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and its Florida members relaunched efforts seeking occupational safety and health protections for Florida’s public sector workers.
ASSE has joined the Floridians for Public Workplace Safety Coalition with other business, labor and safety and health professionals to pass legislation in Florida requiring the state’s public sector employers to meet federal OSHA standards and begin reporting injury and illness statistics to the state.
Other organizations in the coalition include the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF); the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC); and the National Solid Wastes Management Association – FL Chapter (NSWMA).
ASSE and its Florida members have been working the last several years to advance occupational safety and health protections for Florida’s public sector workers. In 2008, the Florida Public Task Force on Workplace Safety was established. In 2009, the Task Force recommendations were introduced in the state legislature in a bipartisan effort by state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Daytona Beach, and state Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. A Florida House bill passed in committee last year, but the Senate bill was not heard due to a shortened legislative session, a result of the state’s budget crisis.
The Task Force recommended the development of legislation that would require all cities, counties, municipalities, school districts, state agencies and special districts to comply with OSHA CFR 1910 (General Industry) and CFR 1926 (Construction) standards within 3 years. Currently, all private sector businesses must follow these standards to protect their workers.
Other suggestions include:
- The state should require all Florida public employers to collect and retain injury and illness data as incidents occur, using the OSHA recordable criteria and Form 300.
- The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation should expand its annual report to include “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 should provide a confidential, toll-free telephone number for public employers and employees to ask questions, report perceived unsafe working conditions and request materials and assistance.
- The Division of Workers’ Compensation should compile a list of professional safety resources to help public employers strengthen workplace safety programs.
While the proposed new legislation for 2010 does not provide for an enforcement mechanism, ASSE officials note that it is a realistic step forward towards greater accountability for worker safety and health as well as appropriate risk management by the state’s public sector employers.