Miami – After Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning local governments from fostering heat protection programs for outdoor workers, President Biden’s administration has announced new proposals to keep them safe from extreme weather conditions.

The federal programs will cover over 36 million outdoor workers in the United States including 325,000 in Miami-Dade County.

The new proposals could not have come at a better time for Blacks and native Americans who are at a higher risk of death and illnesses from extreme heat, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEP) Extreme heat is the leading weather-related cause of death in the United States, and South Florida is experiencing record heat with temperatures climbing to 100 degrees, putting outside workers’ health in peril, especially those who are suffering from hypertension and diabetes.

Blacks and native Americans are disproportionately exposed to heat due to underlying inequities. These include factors such as residential segregation in communities with urban heat islands, limited tree cover, and fewer resources for cooling, such as access to air conditioners and health care.

Between 2005 and 2021, over 600 people nationwide died on the job from extreme heat conditions, and thousands more are hospitalized every year, but federal regulators believe these numbers were underestimated due to the difficulty of tracking heat-related health impacts in work environments.

Outdoor workers, including Black workers, face significant risks, and it’s crucial to address this issue through protective measures and awareness campaigns.

DeSantis’ ban includes a law imposed by Miami-Dade County’s which would have required certain employers to have an approved mandatory heat exposure safety program for outdoor workers including more access to drinking water and shaded recovery periods.

The county’s law covered outdoor workers from the agricultural, construction, landscaping industries, and parks and recreation.

Between 2016 and 2023, 19 deaths have been linked to extreme heat conditions in Miami-Dade including a landscaper who died of a heat stroke.

DeSantis, whose bill went into effect July 1, said the law was an issue raised by Miami-Dade County lawmakers.

"It really wasn’t anything that was coming from me. There was a lot of concern out of one county, MiamiDade," DeSantis told reporters when signing the bill into law. "They were pursuing what was going to cause a lot of problems down there."

Now the federal government is stepping in to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat conditions, and with the prediction of a busy hurricane season with Beryl, a Category 4 storm, ripped through the Caribbean islands, Mexico and Texas, another program addresses flooding and wind threats.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing a rule to protect workers by creating the nation’s firstever federal safety standard addressing excessive heat in workplaces.

The risk that extreme heat poses to certain workers has long been recognized, even apart from the impact of climate change, according to OSHA.

The proposed rule includes requirements for identifying heat hazards, developing heat illness and emergency response plans, providing training to employees and supervisors, and implementing work practice standards, including rest breaks, access to shade and water, and heat acclimatization for new employees.

If finalized, OSHA projects the rule would impact approximately 36 million workers and substantially reduce heat injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace.

In addition, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency is announcing nearly $1 billion dollars in awards for 656 projects across the country to help communities protect against disasters and natural hazards, including extreme heat, storm surges and massive flooding.

Funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law through the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program will go to projects that will eliminate or reduce flood damage, mitigate the effects of extreme heat, and enhance infrastructure resilience.

The Biden administration also announced increasing the resilience of the power system against extreme heat and wildfires, including through more than $14 billion to enhance grid flexibility and grid resilience, including the deployment of resilience-enhancing microgrids and energy storage.

And $1 billion in grants to expand equitable access to trees and green spaces in urban communities, which will reduce heat-island effects and cool cities.

DeSantis has yet to release comments on the Biden administration’s proposed rules to protect outdoor workers.