The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries announced that employers will be required to monitor temperatures and air quality throughout the summer and take steps to protect workers from heat and smoke hazards.
On Wednesday, L&I applied for emergency situations for outdoor heat exposure and fire smoke to protect people who work outdoors, such as farm and construction workers, roofers and road staff. The agency said the rules will apply from June 15 to the end of September.
“The record-breaking heat wave last summer underscored the importance of protecting outdoor workers,” said Craig Blackwood, L & I’s deputy director of the Department of Occupational Safety and Health, in a statement. “Add the smoke from more frequent and devastating forest fires, which is a proven danger, and it̵7;s a recipe for danger every summer.”
The rules for heat exposure are triggered when the temperature reaches 89 degrees and require employers to provide workers with water, shade and cooling breaks.
Employers must monitor temperatures and have a system in place, such as a mandatory buddy rule or regular check-in by phone, radio or other methods to catch signs of heat-related illness.
The rules for forest fire smoke require employers to encourage workers to limit exposure by rescheduling, reducing work intensity or moving to a facility where air is filtered when the air quality index is 69 or higher.
When the AQI is 101 or higher, employers must limit their exposure to smoke whenever possible. Among other things, they are obliged to provide respirators for those who work.
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