Latest updates from Oregon OSHA on heat illness prevention and COVID-19
What employers should know about the new heat exposure rule and updates to COVID-19 requirements.
Oregon OSHA recently updated two rules that affect workers across the state, addressing the dangers of heat exposure and modifying workplace requirements related to COVID-19.
Heat illness prevention
Oregon OSHA adopted an emergency temporary rule on July 8 with requirements aimed at protecting workers from extreme heat. The rule was put into place after a deadly heatwave swept the Pacific Northwest. Record-breaking temperatures were measured throughout the state.
The rule applies to all outdoor workplaces and indoor workplaces that are affected by extreme heat.
Here's what employers and workers should know about the rule:
The rule uses the heat index, which is a measure that combines humidity and air temperature.
- For outdoor workplaces: Use the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool for real-time heat index information by location, and hourly forecasts
- For indoor workplaces: Use the NOAA Heat Index Calculator.
When heat index reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit
Employers are required to provide access to shade and drinking water.
- Water must be provided by the employer and be free and easily accessible. Enough water must be available for each employee to have 32 ounces per hour, and employers must provide ample opportunity to drink water. The water must be under 77 degrees.
- Shade must be provided as close as practical to working areas and either be open to the air or provide mechanical cooling. The shaded area needs to be large enough to accommodate all employees during their breaks.
When heat index reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit
In addition to the requirements above, employers must provide a shaded 10-minute rest period for every two hours of work. Employers must ensure employees can effectively report concerns and must monitor all employees for signs and symptoms of heat illness. Finally, the employer must create both a plan to allow employees to gradually adapt to working in the heat, and a plan to deal with heat-related medical emergencies.
All employees must be trained before Aug. 1 on the common signs, symptoms, and risk factors of heat-related illness. Specific training topics include complying with the emergency rule, methods to adapt to working in hot environments, and the importance of immediately reporting heat-illness symptoms in themselves or co-workers.
The rule will be in effect for 180 days. Oregon OSHA intends to adopt a permanent rule in the fall.
Have questions? Join us at 9 a.m., July 29 for a webinar on how employers can prepare for high-heat events and comply with the temporary rule. The webinar is free, but registration is required. Register here today.
Face covering, distancing requirements lifted
On June 30, face covering and social distancing requirements were removed from Oregon OSHA's COVID-19 rule for all workplaces. Exceptions include health care, public transit, and airports. Employers are still free to require masks, provided they follow public health guidelines and make accommodations for those with disabilities.
Other parts of the rule, including requirements for ventilation, exposure notification, and quarantine requirements remain in place.
Risks from COVID-19 remain, especially for those who are unvaccinated. Employers should remain vigilant and encourage workers to get vaccinated. While no longer required, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend face coverings and social distancing for employees who are not fully vaccinated.
The entire COVID-19 rule will be repealed when Oregon OSHA and its stakeholders determine that it is no longer needed to address the pandemic.
Find more information on heat-related illness at saif.com. Download our handout on the common symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
SAIF continuously updates our COVID-19 resources. You can find them at saif.com/coronavirussafety.