person in orange vest on construction site wiping sweat off brow

Washington State’s Proposed Update Could Bring More Protection for Workers in Heat, State Agency Says

Unlike the current permanent rule, the proposed rule would be effective all year.

Under a newly proposed update, workers in Washington State may see more protection when working in high temperatures outside.

According to a news release, the proposal, filed by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) on March 22, includes multiple updates to the state’s permanent heat rules.

“Outdoor workers bear the brunt of hotter and hotter weather driven by climate change,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health in the news release.

Among the updates in the proposal are:

  • “Updates to the existing temperature action levels to 80°F for most outdoor work, applying to specific portions of the rule such as drinking water and shade;
  • 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 employees during heat waves, new workers, and those returning from absences; and
  • High-heat procedures requiring close observation of employees and mandatory cool-down rest periods of 10 minutes every 2 hours at 90°F, and 15 minutes every hour at 100°F.”

The proposed rule would apply year-round, differing from the current permanent rule, which is effective only from May to September.

Elements such as water access for workers, “outdoor heat exposure safety program with training” and incident response are addressed in the current rules, which were established in 2008, L&I said.

“We’ve listened carefully to workers, businesses, and other stakeholders to develop proposed rules that create much safer conditions for Washington’s outdoor workforce. As we move to the formal comment period, we’re inviting public input to help shape the final product,” Blackwood said.

L&I is seeking comments at five in-person public hearings and one virtual hearing. Visit the rulemaking activity page for information on commenting and attending. The public can make comments on the proposed update until May 11, 2023.

About the Author

Alex Saurman is the Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety.

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