Florida is prized for its balmy temperatures, yet working in them can often lead to injury – or worse. This is especially true around Apopka and its large lake, highlighted by Clean Technica as an area in which heat-related workplace injury has increased exponentially over the past decade, especially for farms and farmworkers. As temperatures continue to climb, employers must find ways in which to help their employees enjoy a better and safer working environment. The proliferation of high-temperature work across the state is already having an impact on businesses.
The legal edge
First and foremost, businesses are liable when their employees suffer heat-related ailments. It is rightly noted by The Chron that states are individually responsible for outdoors heat safety standards and what is considered ‘acceptable’. However, ever since a 2005 case, in which OSHA and personal injury attorneys successfully argued in favor of workers’ rights, identifying who was at fault, the outlook has been improved for people working in the heat. Employers have a legal responsibility to protect you if you are required to work in undesirable conditions, and this includes providing things like water, protection from the sun, and amended work hours to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Despite the legal protections already in place, soaring temperatures are likely to place more workers at risk. This is the view of Medical News Today, who suggest that up to 2,000 workers every year – many in Florida – could die due to heat-related illness at work. What this indicates is that a huge shift will be required in agricultural and other outdoor-related jobs across the country. Other downsides to rising temperatures, such as floods, property damage, and loss of business, are also major risks for outdoor workers across the state. With the idea of shutting down business simply unrealistic, employers may need to look to move their business toward a new reality where employees are more naturally protected. This is even more important if employers have to send lone workers out to the worksite. Besides combating high temperatures, the risks are heightened as lone workers may not have the equipment on hand to quickly get help in an emergency if stranded on-site.
A green business
Presenting that opportunity is green business. There are increasing opportunities for eco-friendly crops across the USA. A few that hold great promise are the prickly pear and hemp, which are being actively licensed across Florida, according to the Miami Herald. Hydroponic crops like these will enable workers to stay out of the heat while still mass-producing valuable crops for a range of applications. Furthermore, less heavy farm machinery, which can be improperly operated when an employee is overworked or experiencing heat stress, need to be deployed in order to produce still very good levels of crops. While this cannot produce huge-scale agricultural work, it can provide work for a section of society that perhaps lacks the protections that big business is forced to comply with, and small or medium-sized firms can overlook.
With its location on the lake and within driving distance of agricultural lands, Apopka has a connection with outdoors work going back decades. As temperatures have continued to increase across the globe, this relationship has been threatened by the danger of adverse working conditions. For employers to provide, they’ll need to get smart.