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Corona Economics

With coronavirus a new health challenge, Florida Chamber launches statewide Safety Council

The first of its kind group will focus on preventing workplace injuries and deaths.

To foster safety, health and sustainability among Florida businesses, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is launching a new statewide Safety Council.

As the first of its kind, the Florida Chamber Safety Council brings together safety professionals from companies like ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, AdventHealth, Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, Fisher Phillips, Florida Blue, NextEra Energy Inc., the University of Central Florida and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to create messaging that will establish an on-the-job safety culture.

“Business leaders in Florida know that their employees are their most valuable asset, and they want to keep them safe,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Job creators can do more by pooling their resources and learning from each other. The Safety Council will unify businesses around what matters most — our people — to make Florida the safest, healthiest, and most sustainable state in America.”

The initiative comes as the Chamber continues efforts to boost Florida’s economy from 17th in the world to 10th by 2030. The council will help ensure growth is done while still ensuring safety in the workplace.

Florida businesses lacked a leading organization to work exclusively on preventing workplace injuries and deaths, leaders said.

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The council and its leaders plan to use research to establish benchmarks for training.

“Safety is job one for every employer, and we now have a statewide leadership effort, for and by safety professionals, focused on making Florida as safe as possible,” said Mark Morgan, the inaugural chair of the Florida Safety Council’s Leadership Advisory Board and senior human resources manager for Corporate Safety & Workers’ Compensation at NextEra Energy Inc.

Katie Yeutter will serve as the council’s president. She previously served as president of another state Safety Council and led that chapter in earning five national awards for excellence in service execution, training and revenue generation.

The Florida Chamber Safety Council will be part of a network of similar groups nationwide.

“We will set the national standard on what the Safety Council can provide to businesses, and that includes everything from day-to-day safety programs to help with long-term issues such as preventing opioid and marijuana use, and supporting mental health,” Yeutter said.

While the council aims to benefit all businesses, it will prioritize work with small and mid-sized businesses that lack full-time safety experts on staff.

“With the collective knowledge and impact of the Leadership Advisory Board, we can create world-class safety programs that don’t currently exist,” Yeutter said. “We will bring all of this brainpower to one table and then share it with companies throughout Florida.”

The Safety Council is part of the Florida Chamber’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan and comes as the state is on target to add 1.5 million jobs by 2030.

“I’ve been a safety, health, and environmental sustainability professional for many years, and the Florida Chamber Safety Council is the right program at the right time for Florida,” said Erin Black, vice president of Sustainability and Risk Management for Coca-Cola Beverages Florida. “I’m honored to be part of the Safety Council Advisory Board to make Florida safer, healthier and more sustainable for all.”

The council also comes as Florida businesses are reeling from historic job losses as a result of economic shutdowns prompted by the novel coronavirus. As the state reopens its economy, safety in the workplace has taken on a new and unexpected role by forcing employers to consider epidemiology in their standard practices to keep both employees and customers safe from the spread of COVID-19.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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