Agencies, Commissions, Boards Involved: Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Authority (Oregon OSHA)

POSITIVE_SIGN.pngWhat’s going well:

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has done an impressive job in responding to OCAP’s directives amidst multiple public health crises, underscoring the critical intersection between the ongoing crises of COVID-19, systemic racism and economic inequality and climate change. OHA has demonstrated a commitment to robust  stakeholder engagement, publishing a voluntary preliminary report outlining its OCAP implementation plans, seeking input from the public, and conducting a formal tribal consultation process to inform its work. 

OHA completed its first deliverable under OCAP in December 2020, publishing a report on the public health impacts of climate change in Oregon. The report focused on the risks faced by vulnerable communities, highlighting historic racial disparities exacerbated by climate change, and focusing on impacts to BIPOC, low-income communities, rural communities and frontline workers. The report also identified many cross-cutting policy solutions to mitigate climate change while providing health co-benefits, such as investing in active transportation options that increase physical activity and reduce harmful co-pollutants. 

Lastly, we are pleased that Oregon OSHA and OHA have initiated work on two rulemakings to develop new standards to protect workers from exposure to excessive heat and wildfire smoke.

Areas for improvement:

While OHA’s Climate + Health report did an excellent job of underscoring the relationship between climate change, public health and equity, the 2021 report could be strengthened by including additional Oregon-specific data points and examination of specific climate pollutants/sectors and associated health impacts. 

In addition, we were disappointed that Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not provide transparent a timeline nor proactively engage frontline workers ahead of initiating the rulemaking processes for proposed standards to protect workers from wildfire smoke and extreme heat. The first Rulemaking Advisory Committee meeting was scheduled on short notice, and included a concerning overrepresentation of industry interests and extremely inadequate frontline workers representation. Oregon OSHA has also indicated that some indoor workers may be excluded from the heat rulemaking. Moving forward, we will continue to advocate for greater public outreach and proactive engagement with affected worker communities to inform the proposed rules. 

Opportunities for progress:

As we look toward the next year of OCAP implementation, our coalition will continue to engage with Oregon’s public health authorities to secure policies that advance equitable outcomes, protect frontline workers and support healthy communities. Here are some key outcomes that our advocates will be working to secure in the coming months:

  • Oregon OSHA Rules Advisory Committee for proposed standards to protect workers from wildfire smoke and extreme heat includes at least equal representation of workers with employer or industry representatives.
  • Oregon OSHA provides transparency around the timeline and decision-points in the rulemaking process, and proactively consults with impacted workers and labor stakeholders to inform proposed standards to protect workers from exposure to wildfire smoke and excessive heat.
  • Agencies adopt workplace standards that maximize protections for all impacted workers, including those affected by indoor heat stress caused by excessive weather-related heat.
  • OHA conducts active consultation with Oregon youth to inform the report on climate impacts on youth mental health and depression.
  • Legislature provides funding for OHA’s Public Health Modernization, which will support agency efforts to advance climate resilience.
  • Cross-agency collaboration in support of climate mitigation policies that advance health co-benefits.
  • PUC continues to monitor and act on preventing utility shutoffs to protect low-income customers as COVID continues.

Return to the full progress report