New emergency heatwave rules for farmworkers

By Oregon Family Farm Association

Employers must do more to protect Oregon farmworkers and others who labor outside during intense heat and smoky skies, according to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which adopted two new temporary rules to make that happen.

When the air quality index tops 100 due to wildfires, business owners must provide their workers with N95 masks to protect them from breathing potentially hazardous air, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. Anything over 100 has the ability to adversely affect the health of people. As wildfires swept through Oregon over Labor Day, air quality numbers soared past the peak number of 500 in many areas of the state.

And, after a farmworker north of Salem died during the excessive heat wave in late June, advocates lobbied Gov. Kate Brown to protect laborers. A new rule adopted last month required employers to provide workers with access to cool drinking water and shade when temperatures hit 80 degrees and breaks to cool down when the thermometer tops 90, according to the Associated Press.

Beginning Aug. 9, business owners also must provide workers living in employer-provided housing with access cooling areas that stay at or below 78 degrees. They also must provide training on the signs of heat-related illnesses and provide access to emergency services.

The new rules will remain effective for 180 days.

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