May 11, 2022New Oregon OSHA rules protect workers from high heat, wildfire smoke
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division announced on May 11 the adoption of rules to protect workers from the hazards of high heat and wildfire smoke. The heat rule addresses access to shade and cool water, preventive cool-down breaks, and prevention plans, information, and training. The wildfire smoke rule includes an array of exposure assessments and controls, and training and communication.
Both rules encompass initial protective measures for workers who rely on employer-provided housing, including as part of farm operations.
The rules, which take effect June 15 for heat and July 1 for wildfire smoke, are the most protective of their kind in the United States. The rules reflect the need to strengthen protections in the workplace against the extraordinary hazards of high heat and wildfire smoke while focusing on the needs of Oregon’s most vulnerable communities.
“As we enter what we expect will be another hot and dry summer, all workers, including Oregon’s hard-working agricultural and farmworkers, deserve health and safety protections from extreme heat and wildfire smoke,” said Gov. Kate Brown in a news release. “With these new rules from Oregon OSHA, I am proud that Oregon will be a national model for heat and wildfire smoke protections for all workers, regardless of income-level, occupation, or immigration status.”
Oregon OSHA – part of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services – adopted the rules, which were proposed in February. Proposal of the rules followed a development process that included worker and community stakeholder listening sessions, input and review by rule advisory committees, and input from employer and labor stakeholders. The rules build on temporary emergency requirements that were adopted in summer 2021 following several months of stakeholder and community engagement.
The rules are part of Oregon’s larger and ongoing work – initiated by Gov. Brown in her March 2020 executive order 20-04 – to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“We know the threats posed by high heat and wildfire smoke are not going away,” said Andrew Stolfi, director of DCBS, in the news release. “These rules reflect that reality, and they bolster our ability to prepare for those hazards in the workplace.”
“As we move forward with these rules, Oregon OSHA will continue to offer free training and education resources to help employers achieve compliance,” said Renee Stapleton, acting administrator for Oregon OSHA.
• A worker’s right to a safe and healthy workplace
• Free Oregon OSHA consultations for employers to improve workplace safety and health programs – no fault, no citations, no penalties
• Questions about understanding how to apply rules to your workplace? Contact Oregon OSHA specialists
• DCBS Multicultural Communications Program: providing outreach to communities with limited English proficiency. Toll-free number for Spanish-speaking Oregonians: 800-843-8086.
• Ombuds Office for Oregon Workers: for help understanding workplace safety and health rights, and workers’ compensation rights