Heat stress State laws Workplace exposures

Extreme heat: Washington L&I issues emergency rule, hazard alert

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Tumwater, WA — Spurred by “the real impacts of climate change,” the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has issued an emergency rule that increases protections for workers exposed to extreme heat and published a hazard alert on heat illness.

Announced in a press release, the emergency rule went into effect July 12 and expands on existing rules. Now, when the temperature reaches 89° F, employers must:

  • Provide water that’s cool enough to safely drink.
  • Allow and encourage workers to take paid preventive cool-down rest periods.
  • Have a written outdoor heat exposure safety plan and provide training to workers.
  • Respond appropriately to any worker showing signs or symptoms of heat-related illness.

When the temperature reaches 100° F or higher, employers also must:

  • Provide workers with shade or another means to cool down.
  • Ensure a paid cool-down rest period of at least 10 minutes for every two hours of work.

Washington L&I says it plans to file an official notification for permanent rulemaking to update the state’s existing outdoor heat exposure rule, which was established in 2008 and is effective annually from May through September.

“The heat experienced in our state this year has reached catastrophic levels,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said in the release. “The physical risk to individuals is significant, in particular those whose occupations have them outdoors all day. Our state has rules in place to ensure these risks are mitigated. However, the real impacts of climate change have changed conditions since those rules were first written and we are responding.”

 

The hazard alert lists symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. It also includes tips for employers, such as establishing a buddy system for pairs or small groups of workers to watch for signs of heat-related illness and performing a pre-work site assessment to plan for shade to accommodate workers during rest and water breaks.

Recommendations for workers include starting the day fully hydrated and keeping track of water consumption, resting in the shade, and paying attention to how they feel during work.

Information on employer requirements, training and resources, as well as answers to a list of frequently asked questions, is available on Washington L&I’s Be Heat Smart webpage.

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