The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA) recently requested the rejection of Miami-Dade County’s proposed Heat Standard for Outdoor Workers. FFVA urged the county’s Community Health Committee (CHC) to engage agricultural producers in developing a meaningful and workable standard.
FFVA argued that the proposed standard is intentionally broad and punitive and does not provide the support needed for implementation. The association expressed its concern with some of the proposed mandated elements and stressed the importance of collaborating with producers who will be subject to implementing them.
James Fussell Jr., FFVA director of labor relations, wrote in a letter to the CHC that the proposed standard includes unsubstantiated and ill-fitting requirements. “For instance, it is not clear how the county determined that a heat index of 90° Fahrenheit should be the threshold at which the implementation of several high-heat procedures become mandatory,” Fussell wrote. “This proposal is lower than similar high-heat thresholds in other states, even those with cooler climates. There also exist other types of measurements which may better indicate risk of heat stress, or may be more practical to implement in real time … This threshold must not be arbitrarily applied and should take into account other elements of a grower’s safety program that may be just as effective in protecting workers. For example, a grower with a sound acclimatization program may very well have a workforce prepared to safely work in 90° temperatures.”
In closing, Fussell wrote that “we insist that the committee reject the proposed standard, and any standard that is merely punitive, and engage and support producers with programs that are proactive and focused on education and training, rather than measures which are merely punitive. We can all agree the goal here is to safeguard workers’ health, but that must be done through a collaborative effort to foster a long-term culture for heat safety and workforce resiliency within the county.”
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