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Gov. Brown calls on Oregon OSHA to enact emergency heat protections

Permanent rules are expected to be adopted this fall, but Gov. Brown said it became clear "immediate action was necessary."

SALEM, Ore. — After an immigrant farmworker died while working outside in the record-breaking heat wave that hit the Northwest in late June, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has directed Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) to enact emergency rules this week to protect workers during extreme heat. 

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

The governor's office said Oregon OSHA will continue working on permanent rules focused on worker safety during heat and other extreme weather conditions, which are expected to be adopted in the fall. That was already in the works before the deadly heat wave, but "it became clear that immediate action was necessary in order to protect Oregonians," said Gov. Brown in a statement. 

Under its general rules for all workplaces, Oregon OSHA can cite employers for not protecting workers during extreme weather, but the specifics about how to protect them are left up to the employer.

RELATED: 'It's a crisis': Advocates push for more protections for Oregon farmworkers after deadly heat wave

According to the governor's office, Gov. Brown has directed state agencies to complete a review to determine how the state can improve its response to future heat waves. Multnomah County, where at least 67 people died due to the heat, will also conduct its own review.

The governor will also meet with state agency and county leaders, Oregon’s Medicaid Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs) and affected communities to discuss how to protect low-income Oregonians as extreme weather events become more common. 

RELATED: Keeping cool on hot jobs, heat safety tips to practice while on the clock

Gov. Brown's full statement:

“No one should have to decide between their health and a paycheck,” said Governor Brown. “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.

“I am concerned that our recent record-breaking heat wave in the Willamette Valley is a harbinger of what’s to come. 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.”