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Bill to protect workers from heat introduced

A bill outlining responsibilities of employers in protecting their workers from heat illness was introduced Monday in the Florida House of Representatives.

H.B. 513, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Smith, D-Orlando, would require employers in industries where employees regularly perform work in an outdoor environment, including but not limited to agriculture, construction and landscaping, to take steps to mitigate the risk of heat stroke among employees and contractors.

The bill requires that employers train supervisors and employees about heat illness, how to recognize the signs and lifesaving measures that can be used before first aid arrives. Employers would also be required to implement high-heat procedures when the outdoor heat index equals or exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which would include ensuring that employees had the ability to summon emergency services if necessary, providing at least a quart of easily accessible cool drinking water or electrolyte replenishing, caffeine-free beverages for each worker for each hour of their work day and requiring all employees to take a 10-minute recovery break every two hours.

The law would not apply to an employee who works less than 15 minutes per hour for every hour in the employee's workday.