In response to hotter summers and increased wildfires, both Oregon and Washington have recently passed legislation aimed at keeping workers safe in these conditions. Oregon’s OSHA adopted its rules in May of 2022 and Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries adopted its rules in June of 2022.
In this article, you will find details about Washington’s Heat Safety Rules, which became effective on June 15, 2022. If you want to learn about other heat and wildfire rules, you can find articles here: Washington Wildfire Smoke, Oregon Extreme Heat, and Oregon Wildfire Smoke.
Washington’s Heat Safety Rules apply to all employees who are working in an outdoor environment, assuming certain temperature thresholds are met. The rules apply at 52 degrees if an employee is wearing non-breathable clothing, they apply at 77 degrees if an employee is wearing double-layer woven clothes, and they apply at 89 degrees regardless of clothing type. If an employee is only incidentally exposed to heat (15 minutes every hour), the rules do not apply.
When the applicable temperature threshold is met, employers must:
- Provide access to a shade area. The shade area must:
- Be open to the air or ventilated,
- Be as close as practicable to the place where employees are working, and
- Be large enough to accommodate employees during their meal or rest period.
- If shade is not available, an employer may use other means to reduce body temperature if those means are at least as effective as shade.
- Provide free, cool drinking water that is readily accessible at all times. Each employee should have access to at least 1 quart of drinking water per hour and employers must ensure employees have the ability to drink that much water.
- Encourage employees to frequently consume water and take preventative
cool-down rest periods.
- Address their heat exposure safety program in their accident prevention program.
- Train about heat exposure and its related health risks. Specific details about the contents of the training is included in the rules.
- In addition, employers are encouraged to closely observe employees for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness for 14 days as they acclimatize to warmer temperatures.
Additional requirements are imposed when temperatures are 89 degrees or above. Employers must:
- Ensure that employees take 10-minute mandatory cool-down rest periods every two hours.
- Ensure that supervisors and workers can effectively communicate.
- Observe employees for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness by having regular communication with employees working alone, implementing a buddy system, or some other means of communication.
To view the rules in full, click here: Washington Heat Safety Rules.
Now is the time to review your employee handbooks and policies to ensure compliance with these new rules. As always, we are happy to help. Feel free to reach out with questions or concerns.
This update is prepared for the general information of our clients and friends. It should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have questions about the issues raised here, please contact any of the attorneys in our Labor & Employment Practice Group, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.