Oregon OSHA Revises Housing Rules for Agricultural Workers

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division announced it has completed a revision of rules governing employer-provided housing for agricultural workers. The new rules will take effect on May 1, 2008, with the exception of some specific changes that are delayed one year because they are likely to require permitting.

According to the agency, more than 10,000 agricultural workers, mostly seasonal, live in housing provided by their employers. The new rules address concerns by worker advocate organizations about a number of areas, including heat and adequacy of bathing and laundry facilities. The rules also will benefit employers by providing greater consistency in inspection standards, the agency says. Currently, both Oregon OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor inspect agricultural labor housing using three sets of rules. Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer & Business Services, held meetings with business owners, industry and consumer groups, and state leaders, along with public hearings across the state to develop the new standards.

Under the new rules:

  • The ratios for cooking facilities and of required bathing, toilet, and hand washing facilities have all been brought into line with federal requirements.
  • Laundry facilities must be provided in the federal ratio of one for every 30 occupants and must be on-site; workers can no longer be left dependent upon facilities in the nearest town.
  • Heat must be provided that is capable of keeping living areas at 68 degrees at any time that the housing is occupied.
  • The requirements to separate livestock operations and housing have been brought into closer alignment with federal rules, while still attempting to provide clearer guidance that takes into account various camp configurations.
  • For older housing built before 1975, current square footage requirements will remain in place until 2018, when all living areas will be required to include 100 square feet per person.

For more information on the changes, go to: www.orosha.org/standards/adopted.html.

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