Hillsboro construction worker latest workplace heat death
An additional workplace heat-related death has been reported by Oregon officials. The incident occurred at a construction site on June 28, the hottest day on record in the state, though the worker died July 9.
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration listed the workplace fatality as “heat stress” that occurred at Robinson Construction Co. in Hillsboro.
“The employee was doing a roofing inspection for a potential leak from a condensate line and became ill after coming down and collapsed,” said Oregon OSHA public information officer Aaron Corvin.
The worker later died in a hospital from heat stress. No further information was provided. OPB could not reach managers at Robinson Construction Co.
Corvin said the state is investigating the death. It’s not clear when that work will be complete.
“Because it’s preliminary information, it isn’t necessarily accurate,” Corvin said. “We put that on our website. We say ‘This is an initial report, and in some cases things are listed as unknown because we literally don’t know.’”
The worker collapsed on what was one of the hottest days recorded in the state, as the Pacific Northwest suffered a historic heatwave caused by an atmospheric condition known as the heat dome between June 24 and June 29. In Hillsboro, temperatures hit 114 degrees on June 28, according to the National Weather Service.
With this latest case, state regulators are now looking at four potential heat-related deaths at workplaces. On June 26, a farmworker, Sebastian Francisco Perez, died on a farm north of Salem. Oregon OSHA listed the cause of death as “heat.”
Another occurred on June 24, when a Walmart warehouse employee in Hermiston “began stumbling and having difficulty speaking at the end of their shift,” Corvin said. That employee was taken to a local hospital and then transferred to a Portland hospital, where he died.
The state is also investigating a June 29 death at Holland’s Dairy in Klamath Falls.
“The victim complained that he was hearing voices. The owner of the establishment had him go sit and rest in the barn where it was cooler,” Corvin said. “The owner checked on the victim a few hours later, and the victim was unresponsive.”
The cause of the Hermiston and Klamath Falls deaths is currently listed as “unknown.”
Between June 24 and July 7, Corvin said the administration received 219 complaints. Those complaints involved multiple allegations, some heat-related and some tied to other working conditions — but they all involved heat related allegations in the workplace.
Earlier this month, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown directed Oregon OSHA to implement temporary rules for dealing with the heat; they included ensuring workers’ access to shade and cool drinking water when temperatures reach or exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, employers must also provide extra breaks or a cool-down period.
Oregon State Building and Constructions Trades Council executive secretary Robert Camarillo said the temporary rules are important but that employers and employees need more support and training. That way, he said, everyone knows their rights, especially working in extreme heat conditions.
“Don’t put profits over these lives,” Camarillo said. “It’s not always about making that profit. It’s OK to send the workforce home for the afternoon. The job will still get done, but you don’t come back from death.”
As of July 9, the state had confirmed 83 heat-related deaths statewide. According to the Oregon State Medical Examiner, 32 deaths are pending further investigation and have not been determined to be caused by the heat wave.
Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting