Hearings Start April 28 on Washington State Heat Illness Rule

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is moving ahead with a permanent rule requiring covered employers to provide water, training, and cooling rest facilities if necessary to workers affected by the heat. L&I has had temporary rules in place since May 2006, stemming mainly from a request that followed a farm worker's heat-related death the previous summer.

The first in a series of public hearings about the proposed permanent rule is set for April 28 in Tumwater. The proposed rule sets a trigger point when employers would have to provide one quart of water per worker per hour. The rule also says they must respond to signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, including providing a rest area that cools the body temperatures of workers affected by the heat, and it will require employers to update their Accident Prevention Programs if those programs don't address heat illnesses. The trigger calculation is based on the type of clothing or PPE the worker is wearing and whether the task is being performed in shade or direct sunlight.

L&I filed the rule March 19. Its cost-benefit analysis (www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Topics/AtoZ/HeatStress/files/HRICostBenefitAnalysis011408.pdf) says providing water as required could cost employers $5.7 million to $15.8 million per year, with required heat-related illness training costing them $3.6 million to $7.1 million per year.

Additional hearings are set for Bellingham, Yakima, Richland, and Spokane. L&I is accepting comments on the rule until May 2. The agency said it plans to adopt the rule language on June 4, and the rule would become effective July 5.

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