PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With temperatures forecasted to reach triple-digits in the upcoming days, officials are discussing Oregon’s new rules in place to protect workers from the heat.
According to Oregon Oregon Occupational Safety and Health, the first thing to know is that workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, including the right to raise concerns, free of retaliation, about potential hazards including heat-related hazards.
Oregon’s new heat-safety rules first took effect back in June. The rules kick in on days when the heat index is 80 degrees or higher and apply both outdoors and indoors where there’s no climate control. Employers must provide one or more shaded areas that are “immediately and readily available,” along with an adequate supply of “cool or cold” drinking water.
OSHA says employers must also have a “rest-break” schedule that kicks in when the heat index is 90 degrees or higher — those breaks must be at no cost to employees.
KOIN 6 News’ Jenny Young spoke with Jamie Corban with the Northwest Carpenters Union, which represents nearly 9,000 workers. Corban says a good number of those workers are currently out on construction sites.
Corban tells KOIN often times in extreme heat, contractors will send employees home early or adjust schedules so they’re not working during the hottest part of the day.
As a former pile driver on construction sites, Corban is no stranger to the dangers of extreme heat on work sites.
“We interact with our apprentices every week to let them know the rules that need to be followed by their employer,” Corban said. “If the rules aren’t being followed with ample shade, ample breaks, cold water to combat the heat [then we] go out there and we talk to the contractor.”
Corbin says a lot of contractors do reach out to ask for scheduling variances just to make sure everyone is safe.
“They don’t want them working out in the heat and having a chance of having heat stroke or heat exhaustion or heat fatigue, because they’re important to all of us,” he explained.
Paul Cirner, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins, tells KOIN a lot of the Oregon OSHA heat rules are about checking in on employees to make sure they’re healthy.
He says employees can take paid sick leave during a heatwave — but you can only qualify for that leave if there’s been an emergency declared by county officials.