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Disasters & Accidents

OSHA Issues Emergency Rules As Heat Waves And Wildfires Continue

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Spencer Pugh
/
Unsplash

Two new emergency rules are in place to protect Oregon workers against wildfire smoke and excessive heat in employer-provided housing. 

Oregon OSHA told KLCC that more permanent rules have been in development for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays. 

OSHA spokesman Aaron Corvin says more recently though, unprecedented weather has prompted action. 

“These emergency rules, they provide greater clarity, they provide more specifics in terms of the specific steps employers are expected to carry out.  It’s important to have this framework in place.” 

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Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Smoggy treescape, September 2020.

This includes monitoring and filtration requirements for workers exposed to wildfire smoke, and cooling spaces and emergency service access during excessive heat conditions. 

The new emergency rules for wildfires and excessive heat follow the recent death of a farm worker. 

38-year-old Sebastian Francisco Perez died while doing irrigation work in the Willamette Valley during June’s scorching “heat dome” event. 

Ira Cuello Martinez, Climate Policy Associate for farmworker union PCUN, says his group had approached OSHA for a meeting prior to the incident. 

“After that death it was very clear that we needed rules as soon as possible," Martinez said.   "We were very pleased to see that some of the recommendations that we had for them were included the rulemaking, including having a buddy system, understanding how communication was going to be done. 

"Because understanding that Sebastian was working by himself and doing very intense labor is something that could have been prevented if there were folks looking out for each other.” 

The rules take effect August 9th and last 180 days.  More permanent rules are still being developed, with one being finalized by year's end and the other sometime in 2022.

Note: KLCC's Karen Richards contributed to this report. 

Copyright 2021, KLCC.