8 July, 2021

Oregon OSHA Issues Emergency Heat Rules

Reacting to Oregon’s recent heat waves and the unfortunate deaths that came with it, Governor Kate Brown earlier this week ordered Oregon OSHA to adopt emergency rules relating to working outdoors or indoors during high heat. These rules took effect Thursday, July 8th and apply at heat indexes of just 80 degrees or above.

ALL Oregon employers will now be required to provide sufficient shade, drinking water and training to employees when the heat index is 80 or above, while heat indexes of 90 or above will also require observation/monitoring of employees, a minimum 10 minute every 2 hour mandatory cool down rest period, an emergency medical plan and “acclimatization” periods for employees.

Trees or a small pop-up canopy can meet the shade requirements, as will a vehicle with air conditioning.

Employers responsible for monitoring heat index levels on jobsites or in workplaces may wish to download the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Index mobile app which can provide the heat index for a given location. Heat indexes, which differ from temperatures, are a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is taken into account with actual air temperature.

Final copies of the rule have not yet been published, and we have many questions about the requirements and how they will work, but the bulleted lists below identify the basic requirements at different heat index levels.  As we learn full details, OHBA will be developing model training programs for members, along with the necessary assessment tools and forms.

Heat Index 80-89

  • Employer must provide readily sufficient shade
  • Water (below 77 degrees) must be readily accessible at all times, up to 32 oz per hour per employee
  • Training required on workplace risk factors and controls, employee rights & personal risk factors

Heat Index 90 & above

  • Employer must provide readily sufficient shade
  • Water (below 77 degrees) must be readily accessible at all times, up to 32 oz per hour per employee
  • Training required on workplace risk factors and controls, employee rights & personal risk factors
  • Effective communication by voice, observation or electronic means with supervisor
  • Employee observation/monitoring required
  • Mandatory cool down rest periods required, at least 10 minutes every 2 hours
  • Acclimatization practices required

As confusing and potentially onerous as these rules could be, some proponents wanted to require outside work to completely shut down when the heat index hit 90 and would have required employers to pay employees “heat leave” when work was shut down due to high temperatures. The Oregon Home Builders Association was at the table during an extremely expedited process to make sure these rules were more workable, including mitigation strategies to keep us working as opposed to a system that results in the shutdown of construction to address the issue or workplace temperature and the association will be actively engaged in OSHA’s rulemaking process this fall that will eventually result in permanent rules for next year.

If you have questions about these new requirements, contact the Brad Nanke, HBA’s Director of Safety & Training, at 503-399-1500 or brad@homebuildersassociation.org.

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