The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries filed an emergency rule 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 filed on Friday clarifies proactive steps that employers must take to prevent outdoor workers from suffering heat-related illness.
The rules take effect on July 13, and 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.
- 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.
- Respond appropriately to any employee with symptoms of heat-related illness.
L&I will file an official notification for permanent rulemaking. Known as a CR-101, the notification is the first step in the process of updating the existing state Outdoor Heat Exposure rule established in 2008.
“The recent heat wave is a reminder that extreme temperatures can be a real danger in the workplace. With more hot weather on the way, we’re taking action now,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said in a statement. “The emergency rule clarifies existing requirements and outlines commonsense steps employers must take to keep the workers who are responsible for growing our food, paving our roads, and putting up our buildings safe on the job.”
Washington has on average 55 workers’ compensation claims per year for heat-related illnesses, according to L&I.
The department recommends that those working outside start the workday fully hydrated, drink at least a quart of water every hour, be familiar with the early warning signs of heat stress, and take regular breaks to cool down. If who feel sick should stop working, move to a shaded place if possible, and tell someone so they can help monitor symptoms or get help.
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