Portland and the surrounding area welcomed the start of fall a few weeks ago, and the change of seasons brought temperatures in the 40s. Not long ago, though, Portland sweltered under triple-digit temperatures. As uncomfortable and challenging as extreme heat can be for most of us, it is vastly more dangerous for workers who work outside or in non-climate-controlled settings. These jobs can be not only dangerous but also fatal. Sometimes, a worker’s heat-related workplace injury or death may be the result of multiple people or entities failing to do their jobs — and that includes people or entities beyond just the worker’s employer. When that happens, an experienced Oregon industrial accident lawyer can help you take the appropriate legal steps.
When temperatures reached 100+ back in August, KGW8 took the opportunity to remind readers of the heat-related workplace protections that are now in place in Oregon.
Back in 2021, multiple workers died during a June heat wave where temperatures reached the mid 110’s. In the wake of those deaths, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) created new administrative rules to protect workers from the heat. The rules apply to “any workplace where extreme heat caused by weather can expose workers to heat-related illnesses.”
Whenever the heat index reaches or exceeds 80 degrees, outdoor workers must have access to shade. When the heat index reaches or exceeds 90 degrees, the rules require employers to give workers a “cool down” period lasting at least 10 minutes for every two hours of work.
Heat-Related Incidents and Oregon Industrial Accident Law
While some heat-related workplace injuries and deaths are solely the fault of employers or fellow employees, third parties can sometimes play a role, too. For example, the rule regarding worker shade says that workers are entitled to a shaded space that is “open to the air” or has “mechanical ventilation for cooling.” When the heat index is 80 degrees or more, the rules require employers to provide workers with access to drinking water that must be cool (66-77 degrees) or cold (35-65 degrees.)
So, for example, if a worker employed by a subcontractor suffers serious or fatal harm from a heat stroke or other heat-related illness at work, and the project’s general contractor had a legal responsibility to oversee safety at the site, that scenario might permit an industrial accident lawsuit against the general contractor.
Alternately, if the evidence showed that a ventilation system in workers’ shaded space failed, a refrigeration system failed (preventing workers from accessing cool or cold water,) or a water pumping system failed and prevented workers from accessing water at all (the rules say that workers should have access to enough water to allow each person to consumer at least 32 ounces per hour,) then those facts — along with evidence of negligence — could also allow a worker and/or their family to pursue a claim against the entities responsible for maintenance and repair (if the employer outsources those tasks to third-party vendors,) or the manufacturers involved.
These are just a few examples of ways third parties can factor into a heat-related work accident. There are numerous other ways, as well, along with a myriad of other scenarios (outside heat-related situations) where third-party negligence can partially (or wholly) cause a worker’s serious or fatal accident.
Consulting the right legal counsel about a potential industrial accident lawsuit is essential. Industrial accident cases are notably different from workers’ compensation cases in many critical ways. These matters are often highly complicated, and a knowledgeable attorney can advise you about the merits of your case. They also can assess the evidence and make crucial and accurate analyses when it comes to apportioning liability. Making correct determinations in this regard can help you avoid unnecessary delays or errors that can scuttle your case entirely.
The experienced Oregon industrial accident attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC are specialized when it comes to these cases. If you have questions about whether you have a viable industrial accident case, or how to proceed with your case, reach out to us to get the accurate, reliable, and straightforward answers you deserve. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.