New Oregon OSHA Rules – Will You Be Ready? Protecting Workers Against High Heat & Wildfire Smoke
Author: Stephanie L. Leffler, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Last week OR-OSHA made permanent the rule to protect workers from the hazards of high heat and wildfire smoke.
Who Must Comply?
All Oregon employers.
Deadline is July 15, 2022
Why It Matters:
· Protects workers from extreme heat and smoke hazards
· Reduces the possibility of an on the job injury or even death
· Employers who value worker safety are likely to attract and retain employees.
Tips to Prepare:
· Don’t wait for the issue to come to you. A hot dry summer is expected.
· Schedule service on your heating/air units before an emergency strikes and the HVAC folks get booked.
· Test and service company vehicle air conditioners. *Prepare for cold weather in August.
· Stock up on cups, electrolyte powder and revisit your bottled water contract. Check out this local small business and amazing folks at South Fork Coffee & Water located in Eugene, OR.
· Purchase pop up shade shelters
· Authorize employees to take breaks in air-conditioned vehicles
· Mandate extra cool down breaks
· Train your workers
· Assign an employee safety advocate to remind workers to hydrate, take breaks and wear PPE. Pro Tip: Let your supervisor assign an employee as an advocate and management liaison.
· In a fire zone? Check your business insurance policy to ensure coverage.
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.
“Every day brings us closer to 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. “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 (DCBS) – 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. “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, n
o 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
Read the rules:
· Rules to Address Employee and Labor Housing Occupant Exposure to High Ambient Temperatures
· Rules to Address Employee Exposure to Wildfire Smoke