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Oregon-Northwest

Oregon OSHA plans to ‘aggressively’ enforce new heat rules, offers training tools

Oregon OSHA

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Following adoption of the nation’s strongest requirements to protect workers from heat stress, Oregon OSHA is offering educational and training resources to help employers comply. At the same time, the division said it will aggressively enforce the rule over the next several months by reassigning inspectors, approving overtime, and addressing heat issues in tandem with other enforcement activity.

“Oregon OSHA is committing to a multi-faceted effort, involving both education and enforcement, to ensure employers carry out the specific steps of this emergency rule to protect workers from heat stress dangers at work,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “We are launching a new emphasis program, which will increase our presence in the field this weekend and over the months ahead.” 

The division’s emergency temporary rule – enacted July 8 – remains in effect until Jan. 3, 2022, or until it is replaced sooner by a permanent heat stress 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 following Oregon OSHA resources are free and available now to employers for help with complying with the emergency heat stress requirements. These resources involve no fault, no citations, and no penalties:

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

Moreover, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which includes Oregon OSHA, maintains a 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.

Additionally, Oregon OSHA has compiled the following state and national education and training resources to help employers achieve compliance and reduce the risk of heat stress to workers. The following resources are free and available now in English and Spanish.

English:

Spanish:

Meanwhile, Oregon OSHA’s move to increase enforcement activity against heat stress is spelled out in its new, soon-to-be-released emphasis program. The program includes further guidance to inspectors on what to focus on and how to document violations under the emergency heat stress requirements. It focuses inspection efforts where either outdoor or indoor work activities are performed and where the heat index – the apparent temperature – equals or exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

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 emphasis program also spells out the following enforcement moves:

  • Beginning July 16, 2021, and continuing through at least Sept. 30, 2021, Oregon OSHA will identify more enforcement capability to focus on heat-related issues.
  • Additional enforcement capability will come through reassignment of existing staff members, the use of overtime, and addressing heat issues in tandem with other inspection activity.
  • Addressing heat issues in tandem with other inspection activity will include – but not be limited to – evaluating heat stress concerns during fall prevention inspections in construction and field sanitation inspections in agriculture.

Workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, including the right to be safe from the dangers of heat stress. They have the right to raise health and safety concerns, free from retaliation. If they do not believe their concerns are being addressed, they have a right to file a complaint with Oregon OSHA. The division does not give advance notice of inspections.

Penalties vary for violations of Oregon OSHA rules, in part, on the size of the employer, the risk involved, and the probability of a worker getting hurt. Under the division’s penalty structure, the maximum penalty for a serious violation that is not a willful or repeat offense is $12,675. A willful violation carries a maximum penalty of $126,749.

Meanwhile, Oregon OSHA continues to work on a permanent heat stress prevention rule with an eye on adopting it this fall. The temporary rule was adopted following direction from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to enact emergency measures.

The emergency rule documents are available for review in the following ways:

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state's workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, go to osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon's largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.oregon.gov/dcbs/.  

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