An Oregon Farm Worker Dies During Intense Heat Wave -- An Update in the Pacific Northwest

An Oregon Farm Worker Dies During Intense Heat Wave -- An Update in the Pacific Northwest

A massive heatwave causes a farmworker’s death leading to an OSHA investigation.

Oregon faced an intense heat wave in June unlike ever before. In St. Paul, one farmworker died from heat-related causes while working in a nursery, according to Oregon OSHA.

“I can confirm that we have open investigations with Ernst Nursery and Farms and Brother Farm Labor Contractor regarding this fatality,” said Oregon OSHA spokesperson, Aaron Corvin.

Corvin said the details reported to the state indicated the employee who died was working on a crew moving irrigation lines. At the end of the shift, he was found unresponsive on the field. The temperatures reached a scorching 104 degrees. According to the Associated Press, officials said more than a half-dozen deaths in the Pacific Northwest may be tied to the intense heat wave.

“We are not aware of any other fatalities that appear to be heat-related,” said Corvin.

According to an article, calls made to Ernst Nursery and Farms were not immediately returned. The Oregon OSHA investigation is estimated to take around three to four months and will determine whether workplace health and safety standards were violated. Currently, the state has standard work place rules regarding heat. They cite the need for water, rest, shade and training.

As of June 6, 2021, according to the state medical examiner, the number of people who died from this historic heat wave has grown to 107 since it began last month. The most deaths that were reported were in the most populous part of the state, Multnomah County, where at least 67 people died due to heat since June 25. The record began Friday, June 25, peaking at 116 degrees on June 28. In the county, however, most of the people who died had underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile in Washington, around 9,300 Avista Utilities customers in Spokane lost power. According to an article, the cause is said to be strained by heat, causing blackouts in the city of about 220,000 people. For tips on staying safe while working in the heat, listen to our latest podcast episode here.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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