Worker’s guide to heat safety

Dear brothers and sisters – it’s scorching hot all over Oregon and southern Washington, and the temperature’s over 100 degrees in the Portland metro area. One member recorded a temperature of nearly 110 degrees inside one TriMet bus, as you can see in the photo above.

OSHA considers any temperature above 103 degrees to be a high-risk working environment requiring bosses to take special precautions to protect their employees. Your ATU 757 officers want to make sure every transit worker stays safe, well-hydrated, & as cool as possible today – here’s how:

First, check out OSHA’s guidelines on your right to refuse work, available online at If you are facing unsafe working conditions, bring the issue to your supervisor’s attention and ask them to address the issue. If your employer fails to do so, and you genuinely believe there is a real danger of serious injury or death, you can refuse to work in good faith. If you do so, you MUST remain at your worksite until your employer asks you to leave.

With that in mind:

  • If you’re working on a vehicle that’s too hot, you have the right to demand that it be brought to a cooler location or the AC turned on, and to refuse to work (following OSHA guidelines, above) until the temperature inside the vehicle is safe;
  • We’ve heard that shaggers responsible for cleaning vehicles are feeling pressure to keep the process running smoothly, even though you’re working outside on hot concrete (concrete absorbs heat, and gets hotter than the temperature outside). In that case, you can demand that your supervisor provide you a safe place to take a break until you’ve cooled off, like a break room or air-conditioned bus;
  • Shaggers are NOT currently allowed to wear shorts on the job, but we’re fighting hard to change that;
  • Stay hydrated, and make sure you’re replenishing electrolytes, either with a sports drink like Gatorade, or a multivitamin and cold water. If you’re just drinking water, you’re at risk for heat-related cramping;
  • DON’T, under ANY circumstances, “tough it out” if you’re feeling sick. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are serious medical emergencies, and can be life-threatening. If you feel faint, dizzy, or confused, you have the right to rest in a cool place. If you’re suffering from the symptoms of heat stroke, call 911 for emergency medical help.

Thank you to the workers who are putting themselves at risk to keep our transit systems running as smoothly as possible during the heat. We see you and appreciate the work you’re doing. Please don’t hesitate to contact the union if your workplace is unsafe.