Extreme Heat Safety Rules Enacted for Oregon Workplaces

By Olivia Hariharan Godt

In response to hotter summers and increased wildfires, both Oregon and Washington have recently passed legislation aimed at keeping workers safe in these conditions. Oregon’s OSHA adopted its rules in May of 2022 and Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries adopted its rules in June of 2022. 

In this article, you will find details about Oregon’s Heat Safety Rules, which became effective on June 15, 2022. If you want to learn about other heat and wildfire rules, you can find articles here: Oregon Wildfire Smoke, Washington Extreme Heat, and Washington Wildfire Smoke.

When the heat index reaches 80 degrees, regardless of whether the worker is inside or outside, employers must:

  • Ensure that there is a sufficient supply of free drinking water that is immediately and readily available to exposed employees at all times. In addition:
  • The water must be cool (between 35 and 77 degrees),
    • There must be enough water for each employee to drink 32 ounces of water per hour, and
    • Employees must have ample time to drink water.
  • Establish one or more shade areas that are immediately and readily available to exposed employees who are outdoors. The shade area must:
  • Be open to the outside air or provide mechanical ventilation for cooling,
    • Be large enough to accommodate all employees on recovery, their rest period, or their meal period,
    • Be as close as practical to where the employees are working, and
    • If trees or vegetation are used to provide shade, the shade from the vegetation must provide a sufficient shadow to protect employees.
    • If it’s not possible to provide a shade area, alternative methods of cooling must be provided.

If the heat index reaches 90 degrees, additional “high heat” rules apply:

  • Supervisor Contact. Employees should be able to contact a supervisor at any time. Communication must occur in a language and vocabulary that is readily understood by all employees.
  • Communication. Employers should implement means of observing and communicating with employees to identify heat-related illness, such as regular communication with employees working alone or creating a mandatory buddy system.
  • Emergency Medical Services. Employers should designate and equip one or more employees at each worksite to call for emergency medical services and allow other employees to call for medical services if the designated employee is not available.
  • Rest Break Schedule. Employers must develop and implement a heat illness prevention rest break schedule. Examples of permissible schedules are included in the rules. Generally, as the heat index increases, employers must provide longer and/or more frequent breaks.
  • Indoor Employees. If employees work inside without a mechanical ventilation system, then employers must measure the heat index within the building using methods explained in the rules.

In addition to these requirements, employers should develop an emergency medical plan, an acclimatization plan, and a heat illness prevention plan in accordance with the specifics in the rules. Supervisors and employees must undergo annual heat illness prevention training in a language and vocabulary that is readily understood and in a manner that facilitates employee feedback. Employers must keep records of who trained employees, which employees underwent training, and when the training occurred.

To view the rules in full, click here: Oregon Heat Safety Rules.

Now is the time to review your employee handbooks and policies to ensure compliance with these new rules. As always, we are happy to help. Feel free to reach out with questions or concerns.

This update is prepared for the general information of our clients and friends. It should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have questions about the issues raised here, please contact any of the attorneys in our Labor & Employment Practice Group, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.

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