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Oregon OSHA adopts emergency rules to protect workers from extreme heat

Gov. Kate Brown directed Oregon OSHA to enact the rules after an immigrant farmworker died while working outside in record-breaking heat in late June.
Credit: KGW News

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than one week after the historic heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) adopted emergency rules to protect workers during extreme heat. 

Gov. Kate Brown directed Oregon OSHA to enact the rules after an immigrant farmworker died while working outside in record-breaking heat in late June.

The rules require workplaces to provide shade, cool drinking water and regular breaks for employees when the heat index reaches 80 degrees or more. In addition, employers must also look out for signs and symptoms of heat illness and implement an emergency medical plan when the heat index rises above 90 degrees. 

The rules adopted on Thursday went into effect immediately and will stay in place for 180 days. Oregon OSHA is expected to adopt permanent rules in the fall.

“In the face of an unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest – and tragic consequences – it is absolutely critical that we continue to build up our defenses against the effects of climate change, including extreme heat events,” said Andrew Stolfi, the director of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which includes Oregon OSHA.

Portland reached triple-digit temperatures from June 26-28. The state medical examiner said at least 116 Oregonians died due to the extreme heat.

Gov. Brown has directed state agencies to complete their own reviews to figure out how Oregon can improve its response to extreme heat events in the future. In a post on Twitter on July 7, Gov. Brown said she met with the director of the state's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and directed OEM to expedite their review process.

There is a full list of workplace requirements on Oregon OSHA's website.