Florida’s Recent Heat Protection Preemption Law Could Disproportionately Affect Hispanic and Noncitizen Immigrant Workers

On April 11, 2024, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 433 into law, set to go into effect on July 1, 2024. Among other actions, the legislation prevents city and county governments from requiring that employers, including government contractors, provide heat protections for outdoor workers outside of those required under state or federal law. These protections include requiring water breaks and other cooling measures for outdoor workers. The law also bans local governments from giving preference to employers based on their heat exposure policies. In response to the legislation, county commissioners in Miami-Dade withdrew their pending proposal to provide heat protections standards to outdoor workers in the county. Florida is the second state after Texas to enact a policy that prevents local ordinances from mandating certain heat protections, including water breaks. This analysis shows that the law could impact nearly 1.8 million1 nonelderly adult outdoor workers in Florida, who are disproportionately Hispanic and noncitizen immigrant workers. It is based on KFF analysis of 2022 American Community Survey data.

In Florida, Hispanic and noncitizen immigrant workers make up disproportionate shares of outdoor workers who will be impacted by the law. Hispanic workers make up 40% of the nonelderly adult outdoor workforce compared with 30% of the total nonelderly adult workforce, and noncitizen immigrants make up nearly twice the share of outdoor workers compared to their share of the workforce (22% vs. 12%) (Figure 1). Among outdoor workers, these groups make up particularly large shares of workers in transportation, outdoor cleaning, construction, and agriculture (Appendix Figure 1).

These policies have been enacted amid a recent spike in the frequency, duration, and intensity of climate change-related heat waves within the U.S. that have resulted in wildfires, air pollution events, and record-breaking hot days. Last year, Florida experienced its hottest year on record since 1895, with surface temperatures reaching 177 degrees Fahrenheit in some locations. Last year, some hospital systems in Florida experienced large increases in heat-related illness emergency visits. In April 2024, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) cited a contractor in South Florida for a lack of heat exposure protections after a migrant farmworker died from heat-related injuries in 2023. It is likely that more heat-related deaths may have occurred as heat-related injuries and deaths are suspected to be vastly undercounted and research shows that extreme heat is associated with a higher all-cause mortality.

Outdoor workers are exposed to high temperatures and are disproportionately likely to suffer from heat-related illnesses and deaths, which also have economic impacts. Research studies have found that agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, and construction workers experience the highest rates of heat-related mortality. Without any mitigation strategies, the threats associated with exposure to extreme heat are expected to increase due to climate change. A 2021 study reports that by 2050 extreme heat-related labor productivity losses could cost Florida up to $52 billion. Further, another report finds that without mitigation, extreme heat could put $8.4 billion in total annual earnings at risk by 2065 for Florida’s outdoor workers. Black and Hispanic people and noncitizen immigrants are likely to be the most affected due to their overrepresentation in many outdoor occupations. Beyond increased risks of climate-related health risks due to their jobs, people of color, immigrants, and other underserved groups also face increased climate-related health risks due to structural inequities, such as higher rates of poverty and uninsured rates as well as immigration-related fears.

As of April 2024, six states (CA, CO, MN, NV, OR, and WA) have occupational heat protection standards for outdoor workers and Maryland is in the process of developing its own heat stress standard. MN and OR also have heat protections for indoor workers, and CA is in the process of developing heat protection standards for indoor workers. Last year, the federal government took steps to protect workers from extreme heat, including issuing the first hazard alert on heat and ramping up the DOL’s enforcement of heat safety violation inspections. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has occupational heat stress prevention recommendations, including teaching workers how to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and changing working conditions to reduce exposure to and health risks associated with heat. Additionally, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a general duty clause that requires employers to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees,” which includes heat-related hazards. However, there currently are no federal worker heat protection standards in place. OSHA is in the process of developing federal level indoor and outdoor worker heat protection standards, but there is no information on when they will be completed.

As the country moves into the summer months and scientists estimate a one in three chance that 2024 will be hotter than 2023, efforts to increase awareness and understanding of the dangers associated with exposure to extreme heat will be important for reducing negative extreme heat-related health impacts. Continued actions to mitigate climate-related health risks for workers will be important as the effects of climate change continue to grow.


  1. KFF Analysis of 2022 American Community Survey 1-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS)

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