As temperatures rise in the days ahead, Oregon OSHA is reminding employers of their new obligations under an emergency heat illness prevention rule. At the same time, workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, including the right to raise safety concerns with their employers free from retaliation.
Oregon OSHA offers free consultation and educational resources to help employers comply with the rule, which took effect immediately when it was adopted July 8. If employers refuse to address concerns raised by workers, then workers may file a complaint with Oregon OSHA. It is against the law to punish a worker for raising on-the-job health and safety concerns.
Oregon OSHA’s emergency temporary rule remains in effect until Jan. 3, 2022, or until it is replaced sooner by a permanent heat illness prevention rule, which is expected to occur later this year. The temporary emergency rule applies to any workplace – outdoors and indoors – where heat dangers are caused by the weather. The requirements include expanded access to shade and cool water; regular cool-down breaks; training; communication; and emergency planning.
The division offers fact sheets in English and Spanish that outline the rule’s key requirements. Also, the division has published a new question-and-answer document – in English and Spanish– to help with understanding the rule.
Under a new emphasis program, Oregon OSHA has boosted its enforcement presence around heat illness issues with more inspectors in the field during hot days.
Employers are encouraged to use free resources – available now from Oregon OSHA and involving no fault, no citations, and no penalties – for help with meeting requirements:
Consultation services– Provides free help with safety and health programs, including how to control and eliminate hazards, and hands-on training
Technical staff– Helps employers understand requirements and how to apply them to their worksites
Also, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which includes Oregon OSHA, maintains the Multicultural Communications Program that provides outreach to communities with limited English proficiency. That outreach encompasses information about on-the-job safety and health. The program includes a toll-free phone number for Spanish-speaking Oregonians: 800-843-8086.
Workers may file a complaint with Oregon OSHA using the division’s online hazard reporting form, available in Spanish and English. A list of field offices is available on the division’s “File a complaint” page. The division encourages workers to learn about their rights to raise safety concerns and to protect against retaliation.
Under the temporary emergency requirements, employers are required to take specific steps when the heat index reaches or exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, including providing sufficient shade and an adequate supply of drinking water. When the heat index exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit, employers are required to follow all of the rules at the 80-degree threshold and to take more measures. Those measures include communication and observation, regular cool-down breaks, emergency planning, and gradual adaptation of employees to the heat.
The emergency rule documents are available for review in the following ways:
- Oregon OSHA’s Adopted Rules page: Oregon Occupational Safety and Health : Adopted Rules : Rulemaking : State of Oregon
- Temporary Rules to Address Employee Exposure to High Ambient Temperatures: Temporary Rules to Address Employee Exposure to High Ambient Temperatures (oregon.gov)
- Text of adopted rules: Text of Temporary Rules to Address Employee Exposure to High Ambient Temperatures (oregon.gov)
Source: Oregon OSHA