Oregon workplace safety and health authorities have indefinitely extended temporary agricultural labor housing rules intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including the bunk bed ban, though they have softened a few of the other restrictions.

The most recent rules, which took effect April 30, have no sunset date or milestones. Instead, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or Oregon OSHA, has promised to continue to discuss changing pandemic circumstances with health authorities and stakeholders every two months, starting no later than July.

“In making determinations about when to repeal all or parts of the rule, Oregon OSHA and its stakeholders will consider indicators and other information such as … executive orders issued by the governor, guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control, infection rates (including the rate of spread of COVID-19 variants), positivity rates and vaccination rates, as well as indicators of severity such as hospitalizations and fatalities,” according to the rules text.

Until now, Oregon had enacted some of nation’s more restrictive temporary agricultural regulations in reaction to the pandemic and has extended them each time they have expired.

This new round of rules offers a few concessions to growers and housing operators:

—Though the use of bunk beds is still prohibited for workers from different households, operators may consider workers who lived together at their previous workplace part of the same “household.”

—Growers who install air purifiers in rooms may measure bed separation from the center rather than the edges of the room, and thereby increase room capacity.

—Portable toilets must be cleaned once a day instead of two or three times daily, and the number of toilets required is reduced to 1 per 15 people, down from 1 per 10 people.

To read more about the new rules, including a matrix to determine room capacity with and without air purifiers, visit https://osha.oregon.gov/rules/making/Pages/adopted.aspx.

—by Ross Courtney