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Washington state seeking input on proposed update to permanent heat rules

Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation/Flickr

Tumwater, WA — A proposed update to Washington state’s permanent rules on worker heat exposure would set the “temperature action level” at 80° F for most outdoor workers.

According to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, the new action level would apply to specific portions of the rule such as drinking water and shade. Other changes include:

  • Specifics on when and how much shade must be provided.
  • Access to cool-down periods as needed to prevent overheating.
  • A section on acclimatization, requiring close observation of all workers – including new workers and those returning from absences – during heat waves.
  • High-heat procedures that require close observation of workers and mandatory cool-down periods of 10 minutes every two hours when the temperature reaches 90° F, and 15 minutes every hour at 100° F.

Before the anticipated adoption of the updated rule in June, Washington L&I is seeking public input. The agency has planned five in-person public hearings around the state – in Bellingham (April 25), Kennewick (April 26), Spokane (April 27), Tukwila (May 2) and Vancouver (May 3) – and a virtual/phone hearing May 4. The deadline to submit comments is May 11.

The current permanent rule has been in place since 2008. Washington L&I adopted temporary emergency heat rules in June as it worked on potential updates. The current permanent rule is in effect annually from May through the end of September. The proposed permanent rule would be in effect year-round.

“Outdoor workers bear the brunt of hotter and hotter weather driven by climate change,” Craig Blackwood, assistant director of Washington L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in a press release. “We’ve listened carefully to workers, businesses and other stakeholders to develop proposed rules that create much safer conditions for Washington’s outdoor workforce.”

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