Salem, OR—Oregon OSHA has adopted a temporary rule to increase protections for workers against the spread of coronavirus in employer-provided housing and in labor-intensive farm operations.
The rule, which takes effect May 11, 2020, addresses the COVID-19 emergency in such housing and operations by strengthening requirements in three areas: field sanitation, labor housing, and transportation.
“This temporary rule reflects the need to rapidly address COVID-19 in operations where the nature of the work – and the spaces in which that work occurs – raise particularly daunting challenges,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “At the same time, it accounts for the feasibility issues employers may encounter as they step up to fulfill these new responsibilities.”
The rule, which will remain in effect until no later than Oct. 28, 2020, encompasses multiple provisions.
In field sanitation, for example, it requires employers to appoint one or more social distancing officers to ensure at least six feet of separation during work activities, breaks, and meal periods. The same applies for housing operations to ensure at least six feet of distance between unrelated people.
In transportation, for example, the rule requires at least three feet of social distancing during travel in employer-provided vehicles, as well as facial coverings worn by passengers and by the driver in employer-provided vehicles.
The rule stems from a March 20 request by the Oregon Law Center and Dr. Eva Galvez of Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center to immediately adopt requirements related to such housing and operations. Instead, Oregon OSHA treated the request as a petition for rulemaking and put it on a faster evaluation track than normal. That track included time for public comments, the deadline for which was April 13. Oregon OSHA reviewed more than 120.
As the division moves forward with a temporary rule aimed at reducing worker exposure to COVID-19, it expects to continue discussing broader issues involving agriculture labor housing. Just as it has for more than a year, the division’s Agriculture Labor Housing Committee – encompassing labor, employer, grower, and government representatives – will continue that discussion.
Meanwhile, the temporary rule’s requirements – the effective dates of which are staggered in certain cases – are as follows:
• Employers must appoint one or more social distancing officers and implement work practices to ensure at least six feet of separation during work activities, breaks, and meal periods.
• Effective June 1, 2020, employers must increase toilet availability by decreasing the ratio of both toilet and handwashing facilities in the field from the current one per 20 workers to one per 10 workers. Employers who can demonstrate that market availability prevents immediate compliance must provide as many toilet and handwashing facilities as possible until the ratio is achieved.
• In addition to the existing requirement that toilet and handwashing facilities be within a quarter mile of workers, toilets must be located at the entrance or exit to the field or in a completely harvested area, whichever is closer.
• Toilets and handwashing facilities must be sanitized at least three times daily.
• Field sanitation notice and training requirements are revised to include prevention of COVID-19.
• In relation to registered agricultural labor housing operations, additional guidance is provided on registration of temporary housing and the use of existing hotel or motel facilities.
• Employers must appoint one or more social distancing officers and implement housing operations to ensure at least six feet of separation between unrelated individuals.
• Effective June 1, 2020, employers must provide additional toilets by reducing the ratio from one toilet for every 15 workers to one toilet for every 10 workers. Employers who can demonstrate that market availability prevents immediate compliance must provide as many toilet facilities as possible until the ratio is achieved.
• Use of bunk beds by unrelated individuals is prohibited.
• Square footage requirements do not change. However, the separation of beds by at least six feet or by an impermeable barrier is required.
• Common use toilets and handwashing facilities, and other high contact common use items must be sanitized at least two times daily. Employers must also provide appropriate cleaning materials to enable occupants to keep private living areas clean and sanitary.
• As required under existing Oregon Health Authority rules, COVID-19 must be reported immediately, day or night.
• In terms of the isolation of COVID-19 confirmed or suspected cases, employers must follow certain requirements, including ensuring that food and water is provided to those in isolation.
• At least three feet of social distancing must be maintained during travel in employer-provided vehicles.
• Facial coverings must be worn by passengers and by the driver in employer-provided vehicles.
• High-contact areas in employer-provided vehicles must be sanitized before each trip or at least two times daily if in continuous use.
• Employers must provide training to employees about ensuring appropriate social distancing when in their personal vehicles.
For more information about Oregon OSHA workplace guidance and resources related to the coronavirus outbreak, visit https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/re/covid-19.aspx
Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state's workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, go to osha.oregon.gov
The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon's largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.oregon.gov/dcbs/
Aaron Corvin, public information officer