Keeping up with Oregon OSHA’s smoke and heat rule-making

The Oregon occupational safety and health community, including employers and advocates, have been tracking current rule development of workplace rules addressing wildland smoke and excessive heat. This rule-making process has been complex and difficult, with active participation from many. The most important thing during this proposed rule time period is for employers and advocates affected by the rules to become informed and express comments to our partners at Oregon OSHA.

Over the past year or more, Oregon OSHA has been working on rules that have now been proposed that would “strengthen protections for Oregon workers against health and safety hazards linked to the impacts of climate change: extreme heat and smoke. The rules would provide the strongest such protections in the nation.” (see Oregon OSHA news release, Feb. 2, 2022.)

The proposed Heat illness prevention rule would “apply to any workplace – outdoors and indoors – where heat dangers are caused by the weather and where the heat index equals or exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It would exempt, for example, incidental heat exposures where an employee is not required to perform work for more than 15 minutes in any 60-minute period.” (Learn more about what the employer requirements would include.)

The proposed protection from Wildfire smoke rule” applies to employers whose employees are – or will be – exposed to wildfire smoke where the ambient air concentration for fine particulate matter (also known as PM2.5) equals or exceeds an Air Quality Index (AQI) 101, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Sensitive groups include people with lung and heart problems; children younger than 18 and adults older than 65; pregnant women; and people with diabetes. (Exemptions include, for example, enclosed buildings in which the air is filtered by a mechanical ventilation system and the employer ensures certain exterior openings are closed, except when it is necessary to briefly enter or exit.)” (Learn more about the employer requirements.)

Oregon OSHA seeks public input on the proposed rules through public hearings and by accepting written comments. Although the hearings have been completed, public comment is still open through March 18, 2022 for both proposed standards. Scroll down through the bottom of this summary document (heat) and this summary document (smoke) to find specific contacts to learn more.

Access the proposed rules:

Rules to Address Employee and Labor Housing Occupants to High Ambient Temperatures
Proposed Rules for Adoption, January 2022

Rules to Address Employee Exposure to Wildland Smoke
Proposed Rules for Adoption, January 2022

All comments can be sent to:

Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon OSHA
PO Box 14480
Salem, OR 97309-0405
Fax: 503-947-7461
Voicemail: 1-833-604-0884 (toll free) or 503-947-7396