Much of the western United States has been experiencing record heat this summer prompting emergency rules for workplace safety. Extreme heat has become more and more common. This is leading western states to develop permanent rules to better protect workers. In the meantime, both Oregon and Washington have instituted emergency rules to provide immediate additional protections for workers in outdoor agriculture. This applies to cannabis and hemp farmers in both states.
Under the temporary rules in Oregon, when the heat index goes about 80 degrees Fahrenheit employers are required to provide access to adequate shade and adequate cool drinking water. When the heat index rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, they must also ensure communication between employees and supervisors to report concerns, ensure employees are observed for symptoms of heat illness and monitored to determine if medical attention is needed. They must also provide a 10-minute cool down period for every two hours worked. Additionally, employers must develop an emergency medical plan and practices to help adapt workers to working in the heat.
In Washington, the emergency rules are similar but use temperature instead of the heat index. When temperatures exceed 100 degrees employers must maintain an area of shade or have other cooling methods available. They must also make sure employees have a 10-minute cool down rest period for every two hours worked. For temperatures above 89 degrees, the emergency rule calls for employees to be encouraged and allowed and to take cool down breaks as needed. In addition employers must update training to ensure employees and supervisors are aware of preventative cool down breaks. Employers must also maintain cool water for drinking, and ensure cool down breaks are paid unless part of an unpaid meal break.
Shade may be provided by any natural or artificial means that does not present unsafe or unhealthy exposures for employees. The area needs to be naturally or mechanically ventilated. It must be large enough to provide coverage for all the workers on duty at one time. Cars, for example, are not considered shade, unless running with air conditioning. Drinking water must be always readily accessible to employees. The water must be cool or cold, 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. There must be enough water on hand to allow each employees to drink at least 32 ounces per hour. Be sure you are providing ample opportunity for employees to drink water.
These emergency rules are for outdoor workers but the practices could also be applied to indoor cannabis and hemp production. The combination of outdoor heat and lighting can put employees at risk, especially in greenhouses. All producers should have a written heat exposure plan for how they will protect their employees from this growing hazard. The emergency rules last through September 2021. At Think Happy Consulting we can help you create an effective workplace safety program that includes these plans and trainings.