PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — New guidelines are now in place to help keep farmworkers safe from the heat. These changes came after last year’s heat dome killed a farmworker.

Some of the new requirements are basic things that Mary Anne Cooper with Oregon Farm Bureau says most farm owners already have in place, such as access to water, proving shade for workers and allowing them breaks.

However, Cooper says some of the rules are problematic for employers, including all the record-keeping that’s required, such as documenting water levels, rest breaks and temperature levels throughout the day.

Cooper says there are also new employee training requirements that are time-consuming and costly. Oregon OSHA said by June 15, all farm employees had to be trained on several heat safety topics, which include: understanding the effects of medication, alcohol and obesity on heat stress, the main types of heat-related illnesses and how to adapt to working in a hot environment.

“There’s just a lot to it that felt like it was done in kind of the most difficult way possible for an employer to comply. When we already had employers that were doing most of these things already for protecting worker health,” Cooper said.

At this time last year, OSHA put emergency rules in place after 38-year-old Sebastian Perez collapsed and died while working at a nursery in St. Paul. The temperature that day was over 100 degrees. OSHA says their new requirements kick in when temperatures reach 80 degrees.

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, OSHA said “both rules also reflect an extensive input and review process. Both rules were proposed in February. Proposal of the rules followed a development process that included worker and community stakeholder listening sessions, input and review by rule advisory committees, and input from employer and labor stakeholders. The rules build on temporary emergency requirements that were adopted in summer 2021 following several months of stakeholder and community engagement.”

OSHA added “as with any workplace health and safety rule under the Oregon Safe Employment Act, Oregon OSHA can take and evaluate complaints, use its emphasis enforcement programs – which do not rely on complaints – and open inspections to examine compliance with the heat rule.”

“In fact, Oregon OSHA has maintained a heat emphasis program since 2017 (in place well before the rule set to take effect on June 15) that directs inspectors in the field during the summer months to ask employers what they are doing to protect workers from the dangers of exposure to heat. In previous years, that heat emphasis program has taken effect beginning June 15 each year, which is no different this year.”

OSHA went on to explain if they identify heat rule violations, then they issue citations which can carry penalties. The agency also said it requires employers to correct serious hazards.

OSHA is also offering free resources to employers to comply with the rules: