July 18, 2023
One farmworker has died this year and police are investigating another farmworker death related to heat in South Florida.
On January 1 this year, while many Floridians were kicking back and watching college football or simply celebrating the beginning of the New Year, a 28-year-old from Mexico with a work visa started his first day on the job harvesting vegetables at C.W. Hendrix Farms in Parkland, in Broward County.
The unnamed immigrant farmworker was found unresponsive in a shallow drainage ditch after complaining of fatigue and leg pain during a day when the heat index hovered near 90 degrees, according to a recent press release from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Heat exposure is responsible for at least several dozen fatalities in the U.S. each year, but currently there are no state regulations in Florida or nationally to address heat related stress. Only a handful of states have passed laws dealing with heat illness prevention for workers. And while the harvesting season for many seasonal workers in Florida is from the fall to the spring, there are still people working outside every day this summer in Florida, as temperatures intensify.
As has been the case over the past five years, a bipartisan bill was proposed in the 2023 Florida legislative session that would have required farmers, construction companies and landscapers who employ outdoor workers to educate them about heat illness. Employers would also be asked to provide workers with adequate drinking water, access to shade and 10-minute recovery breaks in extreme heat (defined as 80 degrees or higher). It never received a hearing.