State improves worker protections during extreme heat

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries filed an emergency rule last week to provide increased protection for employees exposed to extreme heat, including those working in agriculture, construction and other outdoor industries. The emergency Outdoor Heat Exposure rule clarifies proactive steps that employers must take to prevent outdoor workers from suffering heat-related illness.

“The heat experienced in our state this year has reached catastrophic levels. The physical risk to individuals is significant, in particular those whose occupations have them outdoors all day,” Gov. Jay Inslee said last week. “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 new regulations, which went into effect Tuesday, are in addition to existing rules.

When the temperature is at or above 100 degrees, employers must respond to the extreme heat by:

Providing shade or another sufficient means for employees to cool down; and

Ensuring workers have a paid cool-down rest period of at least 10 minutes every two hours.

When temperatures are at or above 89 degrees, the new rules combined with existing rules require employers to:

Provide water that is cool enough to drink safely;

Allow and encourage workers to take additional paid preventative cool-down rest to protect from overheating;

Be prepared by having a written outdoor heat exposure safety program and providing training to employees; and,

Respond appropriately to any employee with symptoms of heat-related illness.

The emergency rules update existing rules that are in place annually from May through the end of September. The existing rules already require ready access to at least one quart of drinking water per worker per hour, an outdoor heat exposure safety program with training, and an appropriate response to workers who are experiencing heat-related illness symptoms.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment