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Oregon calls for emergency measures to protect workers from dangerously hot weather

By week's end, restaurateurs and other employers may be required to meet new safety rules.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Oregon Gov. 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 bridge to permanent heat and weather-related workplace standards that are in the process of being drafted. Those rules are due 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.

“I am concerned that our recent record-breaking heat wave 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.”

Oregon, Washington and the coastal areas of Canada have been gripped for more than week now by historically high temperatures. Some areas have seen thermometer readings 30 to 40 degrees above their norm for this time of year, and 35 cities reported their highest temperatures ever.

Oregon has taken extreme measures to counter the risk, including the provision of air conditioners to Medicaid recipients with certain medical conditions.

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