Portland, OR

Oregon Calls for Emergency Measures to be Taken to Protect Workers From Extreme Heat

Alexandra Tsuneta

By week's end, many employers may be required to meet new safety rules.

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During the record-breaking heat wave, many workers protested unfair working conditions around Portland, including the famous donut shop, Voodoo Donuts. Workers were put in dangerous conditions and made to work without heat in hot kitchens around Oregon leading to protests and cries of outrage from the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) and many other unions.

Because of this, Governor Kate Brown has directed her state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enact emergency workplace rules by the end of the week to better protect restaurant employees and other workers from the extreme heat afflicting the Pacific Northwest.

The emergency regulations would serve as a placeholder for permanent heat and weather-related workplace standards that are in the process of being drafted. Those rules are to be enacted this fall. The rules expected this week will likely increase employer requirements to provide cool-down breaks, protection from the sun, and cold drinking water, according to the governor’s office.

The governor’s directive came about a week after a farmworker died from heat while working in the Willamette Valley, one of Oregon’s agricultural areas. The death toll in Oregon because of the heatwave has been described as a "mass casualty" event, leading to 107 deaths around the state. Over half of them in Multnomah County.

“I am concerned that our recent record-breaking heatwave in the Willamette Valley is a harbinger of what’s to come,” Brown said in a statement. “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.”

While Oregon has taken measures to reduce the risk of death around the state, more rules must be put in place to prevent more mass casualties as temperatures are headed to rise once again. Remember, a job is not worth your life, if you feel like you are in danger be sure to talk to your employer and leave if necessary.

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Bend, OR
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