Seventy-six-year Florida resident, American Society of Safety Engineers‘ (ASSE) professional member, and chemist Edwin Granberry, Jr., has urged officials to provide the same level of workplace safety protection for the estimated 8.5 million state and local government workers that other U.S. workers have under the Occupational Safety and Health Act at a recent public meeting on a Daytona Beach explosion that killed two workers. Florida state and municipal workers do not have the same workplace safety protection that other workers do.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) public meeting, held mid-December, was on the Bethune Point Wastewater Plant Explosion that killed two municipal workers and seriously injured another. The workers were trying to remove a steel roof over a storage tank containing highly flammable methyl alcohol when, as reported, a cutting torch ignited the blast. The plant is operated by the City of Daytona Beach.
“This public meeting should bring attention to a situation every Floridian should know and be deeply concerned about,” Granberry said. “That Florida’s public employees do not enjoy the same occupational safety and health protections by law that the rest of us do.”
A key issue that arose at the hearing was the lack of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) coverage for state and municipal employees and whether Florida should adopt federal OSHA coverage to protect public employees from chemical hazards in the workplace.
“This is not only a Florida issue, but around the country it is estimated that 8.5 million state and local government employees are not protected by OSHA safety and health rules and regulations,” Granberry said. “This is a long-standing national issue of concern….All workers should be protected.”
In 2000, Florida legislators allowed the administrative code provisions requiring public sector employers to comply with the same federal OSHA requirements that all private sector employers in Florida, and the U.S., must meet. However, Granberry noted, in the business world merely meeting OSHA standards is considered a minimal level of protection for workers.
“Most large employers – as the state and many Florida municipalities would be considered – expect even higher safety and health standards to be met,” Granberry said. “That’s because they understand that fewer injuries save money in workers compensation and liability costs, time off and productivity costs, and health insurance costs.
“They understand the moral responsibility they have to make sure their workers are able to come home each day from work alive and injury-free to their families,” Granberry said. “Florida’s workers deserve no less of a commitment to safety from their employers.”
With the death of the two workers and the recommendations of CSB, Granberry said, a process should begin now to correct this lack of safety standards for municipal employees.
“We urge the Florida legislature to establish a task force and charge it with researching and recommending to the 2007 session a viable solution requiring adequate safety and health protection for Florida’s public servants,” Granberry said.