Florida Governor Signs ASSE's Public Sector Safety & Health Coverage Task Force Bill
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is pleased Florida
Gov. Charlie Crist Tuesday signed into law a bill aimed at
improving the safety of government workers, a bill ASSE championed.
Lawmakers passed the bi-partisan legislation sponsored by Senator
Evelyn Lynn (R-Ormond Beach) and Representative Audrey Gibson
(D-Jacksonville) this spring. The measure creates a 15-member task
force that will make recommendations to determine how best to provide
occupational safety and health coverage to Florida’s state, county and
municipal workers. The report must be submitted by January 1, 2009.
Currently federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
standards apply to private-sector workers but not Florida's government
“ASSE is greatly appreciative of Florida’s willingness to address this
issue,” said ASSE President Michael W. Thompson, CSP. “This effort
signals an understanding in difficult economic times for Florida that
finding a way to protect its government workers on the job is not only
a moral imperative, it is also a way to ensure that Florida government
works as well as the best public sector corporations who find
bottom-line value in providing occupational safety and health
protections to employees.”
“Our Florida members work with their employers to ensure costs for
safety and health-related issues like workers compensation, lost worker
time and health insurance costs are kept low by protecting workers. We
are confident that this task force will make sure Florida’s taxpayers
are similarly well served,” added Florida native Edwin Granberry, Jr.,
ASSE’s volunteer Region IV Vice President for Government Affairs who
helped lead member efforts to pass this legislation. “We can’t wait to
roll up our sleeves to help find a way to provide our state’s public
servants the same coverage every other Floridian enjoys. It’s just the
right thing to do.”
The urgency for this legislation grew out of concerns for government
worker safety following the tragic 2006 explosion at the Daytona Beach
municipal water treatment plant that killed two city workers and
severely injured another. An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety
and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) into the tragedy found Florida's
lack of required occupational safety and health coverage for its public
sector employees was a cause of the workers' deaths. CSB’s report and
recommendations can be found at http://www.csb.gov/index.cfm?folder=completed_investigations&page=info&INV_ID=57 .
ASSE has been working to provide all public sector workers occupational safety and health coverage.
“Often overlooked is the fact that the Occupational Safety and Health
Act of 1970 applies only to private sector workers and exempts the
state and local government employees in states that do not operate
their own state occupational safety and health plans,” Granberry said.
Countrywide, ASSE members are concerned that the estimated 8.5 million
public sector workers in 26 states and the District of Columbia do not
currently receive the same federal level of workplace safety
protections that all private sector workers are guaranteed by law. In
Florida it is estimated that there are 195,968 state government
employees and 782,242 local government employees.
As for the Florida legislation, HB 967, the Florida Governor, the
Senate President and the House of Representatives Speaker will each
appoint five members to the task force from a variety of interests,
including safety, health and environmental professionals, business
organizations, state government, academia and related organizations.