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Oregon OSHA proposes permanent rules for worker safety in heat and smoke

Karen Richards
Workers at King Estate Winery outside Eugene have cool water available, at right

Summer may feel light years away, but the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been focused on it. OSHA has proposed permanent rules for worker safety in heat and smoke.

Oregon OSHA set temporary rules to protect workers after last summer’s heat dome. The suggested new rules spell out how to provide shade and cool drinking water, and gradually acclimate to heat.

OSHA’s Aaron Corvin said, if adopted, Oregon would have the strongest worker protections in the country. He pointed to the proposed requirement for employers to provide N95 masks during smoke events, saying, “If we look at California for example, they require it when the AQI exceeds 500. Our proposed rule is looking at at an AQI of 251 or higher. If you look at Washington, for example, there is no mandatory respiratory protection.”

Corvin said OSHA consulted with employers and labor groups, and they want public feedback through mid-March. They hope to adopt the rules in April.

A representative of Oregon’s farmworker’s union, PCUN, told KLCC they have been part of the rule-forming process since last March, and are analyzing the newly proposed rules. They intend to make public comments after a full review.

Details on how to attend virtual public hearings and / or submit public feedback are in two locations: one for heat, one for wildfire smoke.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.