Washington OSHA Issues New Heat Standard
Summer 2021 has been a scorcher across the country, and the Northwest has set seemingly unreal temperature records. These dangerous conditions led to the Department of Labor & Industries in Washington state filing an emergency heat rule on July 9. The new regulations went into effect on July 13 and affect workers in construction, agriculture, and typically outdoor industries.
Although Washington already had an outdoor heat exposure rule in place, the state opted to issue these additional rules due to the extreme heat conditions. The state plans to make these rules a permanent addition to its current heat exposure standard.
What the New Rules Require
Training—All employers must ensure that employees have been trained not only on existing rules but also on the emergency rules. This training includes understanding the employer’s provisions for employees to reduce their body temperature and cool down. They must also be familiar with rest period requirements during times of extremely high temperatures.
Water—The existing rule ensures that employees are given a sufficient amount of drinking water, and the emergency rules also require that the water is cool.
Rest Breaks—Whenever they feel they need to protect themselves from getting overheated, employees are encouraged and allowed to take cool-down breaks as a preventive measure. These rest breaks are paid unless they occur during mealtime.
Extreme High Heat Provisions—When the temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, employers must ensure the following:
- All employees take preventive cool-down rest periods every two hours. Each break should be at least 10 minutes and can be concurrent with a meal break.
- All employees must have access to areas of shade. These areas can be open-air or be maintained with cooling or ventilation. They should note adjoin heat sources such as concrete structures or machinery. These areas should be as close to the employees’ work area as possible and accommodate the number of employees who require a rest or meal break.
- If shade is not feasible, employees must have access to other means to cool down during rest or meal breaks.
Advice for Employers
In light of these emergency rules, Washington employers are advised to review their outdoor heat protocols and ensure they comply with the new standard. It is also essential that employers update training for their employers and make accommodations on the worksite for access to water and shade. Also, it is beneficial to check in with supervisors and other workers on a regular basis to make certain they feel their health and safety are being protected on-site.
Unsure about the policies? Always be sure to consult an experienced OSHA attorney who can guide you through the regulations and requirements.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.