Oregon OSHA today adopted an emergency rule that strengthens employer requirements to protect workers from the dangers of high and extreme heat. The requirements expand access to shade and cool water. They also include regular recovery breaks, training, communication, emergency plans and other measures.
The temporary rule takes effect immediately and remains in place for 180 days, as Oregon OSHA continues work on a permanent heat stress prevention rule for adoption this fall. The temporary rule was adopted following instructions from Oregon Governor Kate Brown to adopt emergency measures.
The temporary rule applies to any workplace – both outdoors and indoors – where heat hazards are caused by weather conditions.
Andrew Stolfi, director of the Oregon Consumer and Business Services Department, which includes OSHA Oregon, said the division’s emergency measures and ongoing work on a permanent rule underscore the so that the risks of working at high temperatures do not disappear, or any other, in the summer. “In the face of an unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest – and tragic consequences – it is absolutely essential that we continue to strengthen our defenses against the effects of climate change, including extreme heat events,” did he declare.
“This rule creates greater clarity for employers on the specific steps that must be taken to protect workers from the dangers of heat stress on the job,” said Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon OSHA. “For employees, this further crystallizes their existing rights to heat hazard protection where they work.
OSHA Oregon encourages a careful reading of the entire rule, which reflects the best available science, as well as the contribution of labor stakeholders and employers. The division offers free resources to understand and apply the rule. The rule incorporates the heat index, what the human body temperature feels when relative humidity is combined with air temperature. The following is a summary of the provisions of the rule.
When the heat index is equal to or greater than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, employers are required to provide:
- Access to sufficient shade (specifications below)
- An adequate supply of potable water (specifications below)
When the heat index exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit, all 80 degree rules apply and, in addition, employers must:
- Ensures that effective communication between an employee and a supervisor is maintained so that an employee can report issues.
- Make sure employees are monitored for alertness and signs and symptoms of heat illness and monitored to determine if medical attention is needed.
- Schedule a 10-minute recovery rest period in the shade for every two hours of work. These preventive recovery rest periods may be provided at the same time as any other meals or rest periods required by policy, rule or law.
- Develop and implement an emergency medical plan and practices to gradually adapt employees to work in the heat.
Access to shade
To be sufficient, the shade must:
- Be provided by any natural or artificial means which does not expose employees to unsafe or unhealthy conditions and which does not discourage or discourage access or use.
- Either be open to air or provide mechanical ventilation for cooling.
- At least accommodate the number of employees in recovery or rest period, so that they can sit in the shade.
- Be located as close as possible to areas where employees work.
- The shade present during meal times must be large enough to accommodate the number of mealtime employees who remain in place.
To be considered as a sufficient supply of potable water, it must:
- Be easily accessible to employees at all times and at no cost.
- Allow each employee to consume 32 ounces per hour.
- Be cool (66-77 degrees Fahrenheit) or cold (35-65 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Drinking water packaged as a consumer product and electrolyte replenishing drinks that do not contain caffeine (eg, sports drinks) are acceptable substitutes, but should not completely replace the required water.
- Employers should also ensure that employees have ample opportunity to drink water.
Training of supervisors and employees
No later than August 1, 2021, employers must ensure that all employees, including new employees, supervisory employees and non-supervisory employees, are trained on the following topics, in a language easily understood, before proceeding. start working in a heat index equal to or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit:
- Environmental and personal risk factors for heat-related illnesses, as well as the additional heat load on the body caused by exertion, clothing and personal protective equipment.
- The procedures for complying with the requirements of this standard, including the employer’s responsibility to provide water, provide information on the daily thermal index, shade, cooling rests and access first aid as well as the right of employees to exercise their rights under this standard without fear of reprisal.
- The concept, importance and methods of adaptation to work in a hot environment.
- The importance for employees to immediately report symptoms or signs of heat illness in themselves or their colleagues.
- The effects of non-occupational factors (drugs, alcohol, obesity, etc.) on tolerance to heat stress at work.
- The different types of heat-related illnesses and common signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
Emergency rule documents are available on the Oregon OSHA Adopted Rules page: Oregon Occupational Safety and Health: Rules Adopted: Rule Making: State of Oregon
Temporary rules for managing employee exposure to high ambient temperatures: Temporary Rules to Combat Employee Exposure to High Ambient Temperatures (oregon.gov)
Text of the adopted rules: Text of temporary rules to combat employee exposure to high ambient temperatures (oregon.gov)
Workers have the right to a safe and healthy workplace, including the right to be free from the dangers of heat stress. They have the right to raise health and safety issues, free from reprisals. If they don’t believe their concerns are being addressed, they have the right to file a complaint with Oregon OSHA. The division does not give advance notice of inspections.
Meanwhile, the following free resources are available to help protect workers from high and extreme heat:
Source: Oregon OSHA