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L&I enacting heat and smoke regulations

L&I enacting heat and smoke regulations – The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is preparing to enact new emergency rules to protect workers under outdoor heat and wildfire smoke conditions.  Both rules take effect on June 15th, 2022. 

Outdoor Heat (WAC 296-62-095) — In 2021, L&I adopted emergency rules to protect workers outdoors when ambient temperatures exceed 100 degrees F. However, this year’s rules will soon be triggered at 89 degrees F with many of the same features as last year’s emergency rule. In August 2021, L&I initiated permanent rulemaking; however, the permanent rulemaking process has not been completed.
The update rule requires the following:
When the temperatures are at or exceed one of the three trigger temperatures in the rule, employers must:

  • Have and maintain one or more areas with shade at all times while employees are present sufficient to accommodate the number of employees on a meal or rest period so they can sit in a normal posture fully in the shade. In lieu of shade, employers may use other sufficient means to reduce body temperature.

When the temperatures are at or exceed 89 degrees Fahrenheit, employers must:

  • Ensure that employees take mandatory cool-down rest periods of at least 10 minutes every two hours. The mandatory cool-down rest period may be provided concurrently with any other meal or rest period.
  • Ensure that effective communication by voice, observation, or electronic means is maintained so that employees at the work site and their supervisor can contact each other when necessary.
  • Closely observe employees for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness by: regular communication with employees such as by radio or cellular phone; a mandatory buddy system; or other effective means of observation.

In addition, the emergency rules:

  • Specify that employees must be allowed and encouraged to take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade or using another means provided by the employer to reduce body temperature when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating.
  • Update the training requirements for employers and supervisors to include preventative cool-down rest periods and mandatory cool-down rest periods under the high temperature procedures.
  • Clarify and define terms used in the rule like “shade” and “acclimatization”.

The updated emergency rule requires the following:

  • Hazard communication to notify employees when:
  • At least two consecutive PM2.5 readings are 20.5 µg/m3 (AQI 69) or more
  • The PM2.5 is 35.5 µg/m3 (AQI 101) or more
  • The PM2.5 is 250.5 µg/m3 (AQI 301) or more
  • The PM2.5 is 555 µg/m3 (beyond the AQI) or more
  • Implementation of engineering and administrative controls whenever PM2.5 reaches 35.5 µg/m3 (AQI 101) and such controls are feasible.
  • Supplying respiratory protection for employees use on a voluntary basis whenever PM2.5 reaches 35.5 µg/m3 (AQI 101).
  • Where the PM2.5 is 555 µg/m3 or more, employees must be enrolled in a complete respiratory protection program in accordance with chapter 296-842 WAC. At this level, employees must be provided one of the following types of respiratory protection: a loose-fitting powered air purifying respirator (PAPR), full-facepiece PAPR, full-facepiece air purifying respirator, or another respirator that is at least as effective.

AGC understands and supports the need to protect workers in outdoor settings under extreme heat conditions or wildfire smoke. L&I should “reinitiate” permanent rulemaking on the outdoor temperature and wildfire smoke rules. By regulating under emergency rules, L&I fails to articulate to stakeholders the rule rationale and doesn’t provide input opportunities to address practical implementation or ensure safe working conditions. AGC urges L&I to convene and reinitiate permanent rulemaking on both issues.

For more information and sample materials, contact AGC’s Safety Director Mandi Kime.

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