On Aug. 2, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published temporary workplace rules related to heat and labor housing, and wildfire smoke. The rules go into effect Monday, Aug. 9 and will remain in effect for 180 days while work on a permanent rule continues. OSHA previously published temporary heat rules on July 8.
Wildfire Smoke Rules
The rule requires employers to put administrative controls in place and provide respirators (N95 masks) to employees. When AQI exceeds 500, employees who will be exposed to hazardous levels must wear respiratory protection. OSHA will develop training materials for businesses to use to fulfill the training requirements. Some N95s will also be made available through distribution depots.
The new provisions require that when the heat index is at or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, housing without suitable temperature control (able to keep indoor temperatures under 78 degrees Fahrenheit) must include common areas to provide some relief from the heat. Employers can provide indoor cooling rooms (using air conditioners, evaporative coolers, air purifiers with coolers, or other reliable means) or shaded outdoor rest areas open to the breeze. They also need to equip outdoor rest areas with misters or provide individual cooling measures that won’t be shared without washing. Thermometers are now required in all housing units, and humidity gauges are encouraged. Employers must also ensure windows can be shaded or protected from radiant heat and fans are available for occupant use. Lastly, the new provisions call for employers to ensure that the occupants in labor housing have information about heat illness, how to avoid it, and how to contact emergency medical care in the event of serious illness. Oregon OSHA is providing posters in English and Spanish that can be customized by employer housing operators to support this education.
BOLI Also Adopts Rules Related to Smoke & Heat
It’s also important to note that, on July 22, the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) adopted temporary rules related to smoke and heat. The rules provide that employees can use sick time to cover absences due to evacuation orders at the employee’s home or workplace. Employees can also use accrued sick time if a public official determines that air quality or heat are at levels that would jeopardize the health of the employee.
Our partners at SAIF have also developed a guide for employers to prevent challenges with heat and wildfires during the summer months, which you can find here.