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Washington state’s updated heat protection rules in effect

Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation/Flickr

Tumwater, WA — Required access to preventive cool-down periods and a lower “temperature action level” are among the updates to Washington state’s permanent rules aimed at protecting outdoor workers from excessive heat.

Effective July 17, the changes revise the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ initial rules first put into place in 2008.

To prevent overheating, the updated rules state that workers must be allowed to take preventive cool-down breaks as needed. In addition, the temperature at which protective actions are required has been lowered to 80° F for most outdoor workers.

Other updates include:

  • Employers must follow high-heat procedures, requiring close observation of workers and mandatory cool-down periods of 10 minutes every two hours when the temperature hits 90° F and 15 minutes every hour at 100° F.
  • Worksites must have at least one area of shade that’s large enough to accommodate the number of employees on a meal or rest break.
  • To ensure acclimatization, employers must closely observe workers for 14 days when employees are newly assigned to working at or above applicable temperatures, return to work after an absence of at least seven days, and during heat waves.
  • Employers must provide at least 1 quart of cool drinking water per employee per hour.
  • Employers are required to update their outdoor heat exposure safety programs as well as educate workers and supervisors on the plan and the new state requirements.

“Excessive heat is a real concern when it comes to worker safety,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said in a press release. “Heat-related illness can strike quickly, and in some cases be deadly. Our climate is changing, and these updates to our state heat rules are a major step forward in protecting workers.”

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