Washington L&I adopts emergency rules on heat and wildfire smoke | 2022-06-30

Tumwater, WA – Following last summer’s heat wave and a series of wildfires, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has enacted emergency laws designed to protect workers exposed to unhealthy weather and wildfires.

Announced June 1, the emergency rules will remain in effect until September 30. Targeted workers include farm and construction workers, roofers, road workers, and other outsiders. Washington says it is taking steps to establish permanent rules to address L and I disasters.

As a rule of thumb, when the temperature reaches 89 ° F, employers must:

  • Provide enough cold water for each worker to drink at least a quarter of an hour.
  • Provide adequate shade that is “large and close” to outdoor workers.
  • Allow and encourage their employees to take paid protective breaks when needed.
  • Request a 10-minute, paid cooling break every two hours.

The emergency smoke control system is designed to protect workers from tiny particles that reach deep into the lungs, worsening conditions such as asthma, and affecting heart health and other conditions. Employers should check the air quality indicator and monitor employees who show signs of disability and illness to determine if medical care is needed.

If you have AQI 69 or higher, employers are encouraged to reduce, reschedule, or relocate. Provide fresh air to sealed buildings or vehicles; And reduce workload or increase rest time. When the AIA reaches 101 or higher, measures are needed to limit staff exposure as much as possible.

Washington L&E says it has conducted research on the effects of heat and wildfires on health, with stakeholders, employers, and employees on the experience of similar emergency laws issued last year. The Agency will continue to hold stakeholder meetings to gather input on the draft rules for the permanent rules.

“Last summer’s heat wave highlighted the need to protect outsiders,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director of the Department of Occupational Safety and Health at the Washington L and I. “Add to the recurring and destructive wildfires, which is a proven risk, and is a summer disaster.”

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