Oregon OSHA Adopts Temporary Rules Protecting Workers From Extreme Heat
Effective July 8, 2021, Oregon OSHA adopted temporary rules addressing the prevention of heat related illness. The rules follow an unprecedented heatwave throughout the State at the end of June, which resulted in the death of at least 116 people. They will remain in effect for the next six months while the agency works finalize permanent rules. The temporary rules are intended to provide clarity to employers and workers regarding their obligations to and right to protection from heat related illnesses. A complete text of the new temporary rules can be found here.
The new temporary rules apply when workers are exposed to a heat index of 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more for “more than fifteen minutes in any sixty-minute period….” See OAR 437-002-055 and 437-004-1130. The heat index is what the temperature “feels like” when relative humidity is combined with actual air temperature.
According to new rules, when heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more employers must provide workers with (1) sufficient access to shade; and, (2) an adequate supply of drinking water.
Sufficient access to shade must be as close as practicable to the work area and can be provided by natural or artificial means. The shaded area must be large enough to accommodate the number of people on a rest/recovery period and large enough to accommodate the number of employees who remain on site for meals.
An adequate supply of drinking water is enough water for each employee to drink 32 ounces an hour. While employers are not required to have the entire water supply available at one time, they must replenish the water consumed throughout the shift. The water should be cool, i.e., 77 degrees Fahrenheit or less, and employees given ample opportunity to consume it.
Additional requirements exist when the heat index hits 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Regardless of the length of their shift workers must be given a 10-minute cool down period in the shade for every two hours of work. Employers are also required to have an effective means of communication for workers to contact a supervisor when necessary. Works’ must also be observed throughout their shifts for alertness and signs and symptoms of heat illness. Finally, one or more worker at each site must be designated and equipped to call for emergency medical services, if necessary.
Finally, by August 1, 2021, employers are required to train their workers on the signs/symptoms and risks of heat related illnesses, the requirements and procedures of complying with the new rules, the importance of reporting symptoms of heat related illnesses, the effects of non-job factors on a persons tolerance of heat.
Have questions about OSHA’s new temporary rules for prevention of heat illness? Feel free to contact me at or 503-595-6110.