Florida Governor Signs American Society of Safety Engineers’ Public Sector Safety & Health Coverage Task Force Bill
Des Plaines, IL (June 12, 2008) — The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is pleased Florida Governor 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 employees.
“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.
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. ASSE has nearly 1400 members in Florida with chapters in Cocoa Beach, Ft. Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Pensacola and St. Petersburg. For more information go to www.asse.org.