Outdoor workers in Washington may be getting increased protections from extreme heat under a proposed update to the state’s permanent heat rules.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) filed the proposed update, which could see the rule’s trigger temperature lowered, on March 21 along with a request for public input.
Currently, the state’s heat standard requires employers to take action to protect workers when the temperature reaches 89 degrees. Under the proposed update, the trigger temperature would drop to 80 degrees.
Adds specifics on shade, access to cool-down periods
The existing rules also already require employers to have an outdoor heat exposure safety program with training, ensure each worker has access to at least one quart of drinking water per hour and provide an appropriate response to workers experiencing heat-related illness symptoms.
Along with the lower trigger temperature, the proposed changes will address the need for more preventive measures in the rules. Other proposed changes in the update include:
- specifics on when and how much shade must be provided
- access to preventative cool-down periods as needed to prevent overheating
- an acclimatization section requiring close observation of new workers, all employees during heat waves and those returning from absences, and
- high-heat procedures requiring close observation of employees and mandatory cool-down rest periods of 10 minutes every two hours at 90 degrees and 15 minutes every hour at 100 degrees.
The current permanent rules are in effect annually from May through the end of September, but under the proposed update the rules would be in effect year-round.
L&I seeking public comment on changes
Before the potential adoption of the updated rule, L&I will conduct five in-person public hearings in communities around the state and one virtual public hearing to take comments. Comments will be accepted through May 11, 2023.
More information can be found here.