heat and wildfire smoke rules

What You Need to Know About WA’s Heat and Wildfire Smoke Rules

by | July 28, 2021

Due to exceptional heatwaves and wildfire smoke in the Pacific Northwest, Washington L&I has announced new emergency rules to protect workers in Washington from heat and wildfire smoke hazards.

Heat Emergency Rule

The heat emergency rules apply to Washington employers with employees who are expected to be outdoors and exposed to the heat. Effective July 13, 2021, when the temperature is at or above 89 degrees, employers must ensure workers have sufficient protection from the heat by taking the following measures:

  • 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; and
  • Respond appropriately to any employee with symptoms of heat-related illness

If the temperature is at or above 100 degrees, in addition to the above requirements, employers must:

  • Maintain a shaded area large enough to accommodate the number of employees on a meal break or rest break. The shaded area must be either open to the air or equipped with ventilation or cooling, or provide another sufficient means for employees to cool down; and
  • Ensure workers have a cool-down rest period of at least 10 minutes every two hours. The preventative cool-down rest period required may be provided concurrently with any meal or rest period and must be paid unless taken during a meal period.

Additionally, covered employers must:

Wildfire Smoke Emergency Rule

The wildfire smoke rules apply to Washington employers that “should reasonably anticipate that employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke”. Therefore, effective July 16, 2021, covered employers must take action to protect workers from wildfire smoke by taking the following actions:

  • Include wildfire smoke precautions in their Accident Prevention Program. Washington L&I has resources to guide employers in effectively implementing these precautions.
  • Determine employee exposure to airborne particulate matter (such as PM2.5) directly, before and periodically during each shift when smoke is present.
  • Train employees who work near wildfire smoke with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 69 or more.
  • Inform employees of available protective measures against wildfire smoke.
  • Be prepared to respond appropriately to any employee with symptoms of wildfire smoke exposure.

When wildfire smoke conditions are particularly severe (minimum AQI 151, WAQA 173, PM2.5 55.5 µg/m3), employers must:

  • Alert employees of the air quality hazard.
  • Implement feasible exposure controls to protect workers from wildfire smoke.
  • Provide respirators and encourage their voluntary use.

What to do to prepare your business for heat and wildfire smoke hazards

Employers with employees working outdoors with exposure to heat and wildfire smoke should act now to update their internal documentation, train employees, and ensure general compliance with the new rules. At Equinox, our corporate counsel can help you update your Accident Prevention Program and internal processes to protect your at-risk workers. Contact us today at 425-250-0205 or contact@equinoxbusinesslaw.com to get started.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general information. Do not view this article as legal advice. Talk with counsel familiar with your unique business needs before taking or refraining from any action.