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Washington state issues permanent rules on wildfire smoke

Seattle wildfire
Photo: JINGXUAN JI/iStockphoto

Tumwater, WA — In an effort to protect workers against unhealthy air caused by wildfire smoke, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has issued permanent rules on the hazard.

Set to go into effect Jan. 15, the rules are intended to protect workers from fine particles contained in wildfire smoke that can reach the deepest part of the lungs. This can cause severe health issues such as aggravated asthma, reduced lung function, heart failure and potentially early death.

Employers will be required to check the Air Quality Index and monitor workers who show signs of injury and illness to determine if medical care is needed. Other employer requirements will include establishing a response plan, training employees and implementing a two-way communication system.

Washington L&I provides free resources on its Wildfire Smoke webpage.

“With our changing climate, we know the threat of wildfire smoke isn’t a short-term problem,” Craig Blackwood, assistant director of the Washington L&I Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in a press release. “By developing year-round, permanent rules that clearly spell out the requirement employers must follow, we can help them protect workers from the hazards of wildfire smoke.”

Washington, which adopted emergency rules on wildfire smoke in June, becomes the third state to issue permanent rules on the hazard, joining California and Oregon.

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