State laws Workplace exposures

Washington state developing standard on wildfire smoke and outdoor workers

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Tumwater, WA — Washington state has taken the first step in the rulemaking process to address worker exposure to wildfire smoke.

The state’s Department of Labor & Industry announced in an Oct. 21 press release that it has filed an official notification, known as CR-101, to initiate the process. Washington is the second state to seek wildfire smoke rules; California adopted its standard in 2019.

Wildfire smoke contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that can harm the health of workers, especially those in construction, agriculture and other industries in which jobsites typically are outdoors. Issues likely to be addressed in the new rules include identification and control of harmful exposures, as well as training and instruction.

“By developing clear rules that spell out the safety and health requirements related to protective equipment and training, we can help businesses protect workers from these serious hazards,” Craig Blackwood, deputy assistant director of Washington’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in the release. “It’s clear that wildfire smoke isn’t a short-term issue. It is especially concerning for workers who have to be outside and breathe it in all day long.”

 

Washington L&I stated that it plans to conduct stakeholder meetings over the next few months to collect input that will help in the development of an initial draft of the rules. Once an official draft is created, the agency says, the public will have opportunities to comment.

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