Florida bill raises concerns about safety of working teens

Published on January 2, 2024 at 10:02 am

A bill filed in the Florida Legislature would expose teens to technical and skilled trade opportunities as an alternative to college and professional careers.

The bill, however, could also expose them to more dangerous work conditions.

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Senate Bill 460 would allow teens ages 16 and 17 to work at heights over 6 feet if they earn a safety certificate and are supervised.

It’s designed to give them an alternative to college and professional career paths.

Holly Bullard, with the Florida Policy Institute — which is analyzing the bills — calls it a “poison bill.”

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“There’s no guarantee that the supervisor is actually going to be there the entire time while a person is on the ladder or on the roof,” Bullard said. “Supervision can be interpreted widely. It can just mean that you’re on the job site or you’re responsible for those people, but it doesn’t mean that you’re actually watching to youth work the entire time.”

Bullard also pointed to the low number of supervisors compared to the numbers of workers they’d oversee.

“Looking at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we know there is only one direct supervisor for every seven construction and extraction trade workers,” Bullard said. “So you’re already setting that situation up for failure.”

Another bill would allow employers to schedule 16- and 17-year-olds for 30-hour-plus workweeks, overnight, and without breaks — even if they have school the following day.

The legislative session starts Jan. 9.

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