Oregon roofer dies in Pacific Northwest heat wave

Diving letter:

  • A construction worker has died of a heat-related illness following the record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon.
  • While inspecting a possible leak from a condensate line, an unnamed roofer in Hillsboro, Oregon, collapsed from heat stress on June 28, the hottest day on record in the state, when the thermometer reached 116 degrees. He later died in hospital of heat stress, according to a preliminary Oregon OSHA report shared with Construction Dive.
  • The roofer’s death is one of four heat-related deaths currently under investigation by Oregon OSHA, according to the report. He was employed by Robinson Construction, according to the agency. Robinson Construction did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Construction Dive.

Dive Insight:

Working in an area that is less used to massive heat spikes can be more dangerous. The Pacific Northwest heat wave caused up to 100 deaths in Oregon, USA Today reports.

Oregon OSHA received 219 heat-related complaints from June 24 to July 2. In 2020, the department received 2,000 complaints throughout the year. according to Leah Andrews, an Oregon OSHA spokeswomanwhich means the heat wave accounted for about 10% of the total discomfort in the past year during a single nine day window.

Especially in early summer, workers who are not used to the heat are more likely to succumb to heat-related illnesses. Max Gottfried, Environment and Safety Manager at Rosendin Electric, told Construction Dive shortly after the heat wave.

A lack of experience in dealing with heat, combined with this vulnerability, can create problems for workers and contractors. It is important to be vigilant and to train the workers to take care of each other, said Gottfried.

As of July 3, Oregon has reported three potential deaths and two potential hospital admissions to OSHA due to the heat for 2021. These incidents are currently being investigated and not confirmed.

By comparison, OSHA reports from Oregon confirm one death and three hospital admissions due to heat in 2020 and one non-hospital death in 2019.

The investigation into the roofer’s death is likely to take four to five months, Andrews told Construction Dive.

“These investigations often lead to corrective actions where employers implement new safety rules and procedures to prevent future injuries and deaths,” said Andrews. “If an investigation reveals security breaches, we endeavor to hold employers accountable who were responsible for preventing the tragedy.”

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