• August 30, 2021

OSHA Investigating 117 Workplace Complaints Made Due to Heat Wave

Oregonians filed 254 complaints with the Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Administration between June 24 and 28, nearly half of which described unsafe working conditions related to that week’s record-shattering heat.

The agency released complaint data this week in response to a request from Oregon Business. According to Oregon OSHA spokesperson Aaron Corvin, typically the agency receives about 2,000 complaints about workplace safety per year — meaning in that five-day stretch, it fielded about 12% of the complaints it would normally get in a year.

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Of those, 117 made some mention of the heat wave. One recurring complaint was that employers operated with inadequate or malfunctioning cooling systems — and refused to close businesses as temperatures soared.

And five Oregonians died on the job in those days, according to OSHA, though only two have been identified as heat-related deaths.

Those who lost their lives at work during the heat wave include a farmworker who died at a St. Paul worksite June 26 and a warehouse worker who died June 24 in Hermiston. The farmworker, Sebastian Francisco Perez, died due to heat, where the warehouse worker’s cause of death is still unknown, according to OSHA.

The agency’s tally of workplace deaths between June 24 and June 30 also includes a death at a Hillsboro construction site June 28 attributed to heat stress and a June 29 death at a Klamath Falls farm due to unknown causes. (It’s unlikely the fifth workplace death to take place in that window was heat-related; according to OSHA, on June 27 a truck driver was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Oakridge.)

All of those incidents are under investigation, according to Corvin.

“We do not discuss the status or details of ongoing investigations. When we complete an investigation, the results are public,” says Corvin.

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