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Washington state proposes stricter heat illness prevention rules


Washington State Department of Labor & Industries on Wednesday provided details on a proposal to update the state’s permanent heat rules to increase protections for agricultural, construction and other workers exposed to dangerous outdoor temperatures on the job.

Washington’s existing rules already require employers to have an outdoor heat exposure safety program with training, making sure each worker has ready access to at least one quart of suitable drinking water per hour, and providing an appropriate response to workers who are experiencing heat-related illness symptoms.

The proposed changes address the need for more preventive measures in the rules, according to the department, which is seeking public comment on the changes.

Some of the proposed updates to the rule include updates to the existing temperature action levels to 80° F for most outdoor work, applying to specific portions of the rule such as drinking water and shade; specifics on when and how much shade must be provided; access to preventive cool-down periods as needed to prevent overheating; an acclimatization section requiring close observation of employees during heat waves, new workers, and those returning from absences; and high-heat procedures requiring close observation of employees and mandatory cool-down rest periods of 10 minutes every two hours at 90° F, and 15 minutes every hour at 100° F.