Brown directs Oregon OSHA to enact emergency rules to protect workers from heat

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In the face of an unprecedented heatwave, Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday directed Oregon OSHA to enact emergency rules this week to ensure urgent protection for workers from extreme heat.

The temporary rules are expected to expand requirements for employers to provide shade, rest time, and cool water for workers during high and extreme heat events.

Oregon OSHA will continue working on permanent rules focused on worker safety from heat and extreme weather, which are expected to be adopted this fall.

“No one should have to decide between their health and a paycheck,” Brown said. “All Oregonians should be able to go to work knowing that conditions will be safe and that they will return home to their families at the end of the day. While Oregon OSHA has been working to adopt permanent rules related to heat, it became clear that immediate action was necessary in order to protect Oregonians, especially those whose work is critical to keeping Oregon functioning and oftentimes must continue during extreme weather.”

The State Medical Examiner on Tuesday announced 107 people have died from the ongoing heatwave across the state, including two Deschutes County residents.

“I am concerned that our recent record-breaking heatwave in the Willamette Valley is a harbinger of what’s to come,” Brown said. “Even with the immense resources directed to preparing communities for the excessive heat, it is critical that we need to be better prepared, flexible, and resilient.

“At the same time, we must center the voices of historically underserved communities in our emergency planning efforts to make sure we’re meeting all community members where they are.”

In response, Brown has directed state agencies to complete an after-action review to determine how the state can improve its response efforts and outcomes.

She will also be meeting with agency heads, county leaders, Oregon’s Medicaid Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs), and impacted communities over the next several weeks to hear their recommendations, ensure steps are being taken immediately to prepare for the next heatwave.

They’ll also discuss how to better prepare to protect the health of low-income Oregonians as we anticipate additional extreme weather events in the future.

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