Workers seek protections from dangers of hot days in Miami-Dade bill (includes video story)

On Monday, the Miami-Dade Commission’s Health Committee held a public hearing and vote on regulations that would protect outdoor workers from the dangers of working on hot days.

A total of 57 people signed up to speak on the decision, most of whom were members of the organization WeCount!, standing up with the ¡Qué Calor! campaign, supporting the bill.

Javier Torres, a construction employee who has worked in Miami-Dade for 26 years, suffered a heat stroke on the job and attended yesterday’s hearing to tell his story.

“I fell from the second floor from a ladder and they took me to Jackson Hospital. The paramedics put me in a neck brace. I couldn’t talk from the hit,” said Torres. “But then, in an hour, I started to talk again. They put me in a scanner and when they took me out they said ‘You’re a miracle from God. From the height you fell, you have no broken bones, you’re simply hurt.”

The proposed standard would require construction and agriculture companies to provide their outdoor workers drinking water, shade and 10-minute breaks every two hours on days when the heat index reaches 90 degrees. It would also require employers to train workers to recognize the signs of heat illness.

President of South Florida Building & Trades Council, Mark Schaunaman, said, “It’s proven that if you give somebody a ten-minute break, they’re more productive after the break than rather than have them work through the break. So, the argument that it costs money doesn’t hold water. It’s not factual.”

The ordinance would require a heat exposure safety program, a multilingual notice of employee rights, and reports and penalties for violations of the chapter.

OSHA was frequently brought up during yesterday’s hearing with some saying the administration is enough to ensure the safety of workers and others calling out its lack of enforcement.

“The last thing they need is another agency from Miami-Dade County to oversee their work and their safety track records and policies which are already overseen by OSHA,” said Carlos Carillo, the executive South Florida chapter director for the Association of General Contractors of America.

The health committee voted 5-1 in favor of the bill. The full commission board will vote on in October.

“They are very close,” said District 9 Commissioner Kionne McGheehey. “They are at 95% of the way there, and I do believe that we are going to get there.”

Samantha Gutierrez is a student journalist majoring in Digital Communication and Media. As a bilingual reporter, she enjoys covering stories about her diverse Miami community. With a strong passion for broadcasting, she aspires to pursue a career as a multimedia journalist in South Florida.