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OSHA: Hundreds of workers filed heat-related complains over summer

Nearly one-quarter of the complaints came from restaurant workers who described unsafe conditions including indoor temperatures well above 100 degrees.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As temperatures soared into the triple-digits this summer, many Oregon workers complained of no air conditioning, limited water and no rest breaks at their workplace, according to records provided by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA).

Records show Oregon OSHA received 269 heat-related complaints from June through August. Nearly one-quarter of those complaints came from restaurant workers, who described unsafe conditions including indoor temperatures well above 100 degrees due to a lack of air conditioning.

“The heat is so miserable employees are throwing up in the bathroom,” explained one restaurant worker in Medford in an Oregon OSHA complaint.

Oregon OSHA received roughly 100 of 269 heat-related complaints from July 25-29, days on which record-breaking temperatures often reached triple digits.

In June, new state rules went into effect requiring access to water, shade and breaks for workers when temperatures reach 80 degrees. The rules also call for heat illness prevention training at the worksite.

OTHER STORIES: Oregon OSHA aims to prevent heat illness, death with new requirements for employers

Aaron Corvin, Oregon OSHA’s spokesperson, said the agency has at least 65 open inspections linked to complaints involving heat-related allegations. Corvin expects many of those will result in citations for violations. The only way Oregon OSHA issues citations is if it identifies violations during the course of an inspection.

Oregon OSHA has four closed inspections that resulted in citations for heat rule violations, explained Corvin. Crop harvesting company M & M Potato Inc. in Hermiston was fined $650. Oregon OSHA fined athletic apparel manufacturer Fjord LLC in Woodburn $735. Shoe store DSW Shoe Warehouse Inc. in Hillsboro was fined $150. A $450 fine was imposed on Truss “T” Structures Inc., a prefabricated metal building and component manufacturer in Woodburn.

Employers have 30 days to appeal citations that result from inspections.

In July, new state rules went into effect to protect workers laboring in wildfire smoke. The rules require employers to monitor outdoor air quality at worksites, provide training to monitor for wildfire smoke exposure and provide proper masks or respirators. 

OTHER STORIES: Business groups sue over heat and smoke worker protections

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