Oregon Osha Aims To Prevent Heat Illness, Death With New Requirements For Employers (Latest News)

There are serious concerns for individuals working outdoors during the heat this week when temperatures are expected to reach the 100s. Workers will be protected by new regulations that take effect this summer.
Oregon underwent significant changes as a result of the heat wave last year, including new, long-term regulations requiring employers to safeguard workers from heat-related disorders including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Employers are required to give employees more time for breaks, shady places to rest, and access to lots of water when the heat index reaches or surpasses 80 degrees Fahrenheit, as per Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (Oregon OSHA). When the temperature rises above ninety degrees, breaks must be extended, communication must increase, and each employee must be closely watched during the shift.

“That might be a buddy system, where they only have maybe teams working together on a site where it’s really remote. Or where the supervisors are going around checking in on the employees,” said Paul Cirner, an associate attorney with Ogletree Deakins. “In addition to the communication and monitoring, they also require written plans … the biggest one is a written rest break schedule that takes into account the type of work the workers are doing, what their exposure to heat is, and certain intervals at which they have to take breaks.”

However, where there is no climate control, these regulations also apply to interior workers. They primarily apply to outdoor workers, such as those in construction or agriculture.

According to Ira Cuello Martinez, policy and advocacy director for Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Oregon’s agricultural worker union, dangerous heat exposure poses a particular risk for farm workers.

“You’re constantly moving and doing repetitive motions, having to bend down, and there aren’t many shaded structures when it comes to the field or doing work in agriculture,” he stated.

A migrant agricultural laborer who was supporting his family back in Guatemala, Sebastian Francisco Perez, passed away just a year ago while putting irrigation pipes in during the heat wave.

“Sebastian was working by himself during this heat wave and wasn’t found until late after the fact that he was missing and not showing up or other folks have not seen him,” said Cuello Martinez. “That’s very concerning, that anyone would work outside in excessive heat โ€” 90 plus degrees, 100 plus degree weather โ€” and the employer or other workers not knowing necessarily what they’re doing or how they’re experiencing working in those conditions.”

OSHA inspectors will be checking on employers all summer to see their plans for protecting workers. Employees who feel rules aren’t being followed can also submit complaints directly to the state without fear of retaliation.

Due To Heat Waves, Temp. Crosses 90 Degree
Due To Heat Waves, Temp. Crosses 90 Degree

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