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WA State files emergency outdoor heat exposure, wildfire smoke rules

Rules take effect June 15

Posted June 3, 2022

On June 1, Washington State’s Department of Labor & Industries filed emergency outdoor heat exposure and wildfire smoke rules to protect outdoor workers such as roofers, road crews, and farm and construction workers. The emergency rules, which take effect June 15, update existing rules that are in place annually May through the end of September.

Outdoor heat exposure

In addition to existing requirements, the emergency rule requires:

  • Water must be suitably cool for drinking.
  • Adequate shade (or alternatives).
  • Workers are encouraged and allowed to take paid, preventative cool down rest periods so they don’t overheat.
  • Paid, mandatory cool down rest periods of 10 minutes every 2 hours when temperatures are 89°F or hotter.
  • A method for supervisors and employees to communicate about and observe signs and symptoms of heat illness when temperatures are 89°F or hotter.
  • Training workers and supervisors regarding emergency requirements.

Wildfire smoke

In addition to existing requirements, the emergency rule requires employers to monitor air quality and take action when outdoor workers are exposed to wildfire smoke and the Air Quality Index (AQI) is at 101 or higher. Actions include taking steps to limit workers’ exposure to smoke whenever feasible and providing respirators for voluntary use.

Employees also must be provided with and required to wear more protective respirators when particulates from wildfire smoke are measured at 555 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) or higher.

The agency is developing permanent rules for both heat and wildfire smoke exposures.

This article was written by Rachel Krubsack of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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