Outdoor workers seek mandatory relief

Caption: Contractor working on Tallahassee Amazon Distribution Facility
Pic Cred: crwcontracting.com

Zahir Furquan, a 21-year-old timber relocation engineer from Jacksonville, knows the challenges of working outdoors all too well. 

“Sometimes the employer you are working for may not have a cooler on the truck for long jobs,” Furquan said. “That is a bare minimum.”

Furquan’s sentiments highlight the need for better working conditions for outdoor laborers. The summer months in the Sunshine State can be brutal – and a threat to a person’s health.

Furquan’s sentiments reflect the broader concerns of Florida’s outdoor workforce, which has faced sweltering temperatures and minimal protections for years. Despite efforts by lawmakers to pass legislation safeguarding outdoor workers from heat-related risks, progress has consistently stalled.

In a recent development, a new bill introduced this legislative session aims to prevent Florida cities and counties from implementing their heat protections, raising alarm bells among worker advocacy groups. With temperatures soaring and heat advisories, concerns about worker safety are at an all-time high.

While federal law mandates employers take into account worker safety, the absence of statewide heat protection standards in Florida leaves workers vulnerable. The Department of Labor conducts inspections to assess heat exposure protocols, but instances of heat-related illnesses and deaths remain challenging to track accurately.

Lobbying from industry associations has further hindered progress on heat protection legislation, exacerbating the plight of outdoor workers. Meanwhile, a separate bill in the Florida House seeks to ban local heat protection policies and minimum wages, drawing criticism from workers’ rights advocates.

Furquan offers practical advice for fellow outdoor workers, emphasizing the importance of self-care. 

“Make sure you are taking care of your body and getting sleep,” Furquan said.

He also advises potential contractors to prioritize mutual support in the workforce. 

 “Find a coworker to get close with and check in on each other,” Furquan said. 

As Florida grapples with record-breaking temperatures, the need for comprehensive heat protection measures is more urgent than ever. Despite the challenges, advocacy groups like the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) continues to fight for the rights of outdoor workers, advocating for legislation that prioritizes worker safety and well-being.

For outdoor contractors like Furquan, the battle for heat protection is personal.

 “It is a slap in the face that people making everything look good are not properly cared for,” Furquan said.

For more information about the AFL-CIO and its work in Florida, visit https://flaflcio.org/about/.