Outdoor workers would gain increased protection from heat exposure in proposed rule update

22 Mar, 2023 Jaime Toby


Tumwater,WA (WorkersCompensation.com) -  A new proposal this week to update Washington’s permanent heat rules would increase protections for agricultural, construction, and other workers exposed to dangerous outdoor temperatures on the job.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) filed the proposed update to the permanent heat rule on Tuesday, officially kicking off the formal process for public input.

Vea abajo para esta información en español.

Washington’s existing rules already require employers to have an outdoor heat exposure safety program with training, make sure each worker has ready access to at least one quart of suitable drinking water per hour, and provide an appropriate response to workers who are experiencing heat-related illness symptoms. The proposed changes address the need for more preventative measures in the rules. Preventing workers from overheating reduces the risk of heat-related illness and also traumatic injuries like falling from ladders.  

Some of the updates to the proposed 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 preventative 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 2 hours at 90°F, and 15 minutes every hour at 100°F.

“Outdoor workers bear the brunt of hotter and hotter weather driven by climate change,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “We’ve listened carefully to workers, businesses, and other stakeholders to develop proposed rules that create much safer conditions for Washington’s outdoor workforce. As we move to the formal comment period, we’re inviting public input to help shape the final product.”

Protecting outdoor workers from high temperatures
Current permanent heat rules were put in place by L&I in 2008. Acknowledging the need for more preventative measures in high heat, temporary emergency heat rules were in place over the past two years while the permanent rule was being updated. The current permanent rule is in effect annually from May through the end of September. The proposed permanent rule would be in effect year-round.

Public input opportunities
Before the anticipated adoption in June, L&I will conduct five in-person public hearings in communities around the state and one virtual public hearing to take comments. Details on how to attend the hearings or submit comments by mail, fax, or email, can be found on L&I’s rulemaking activity page. Public comments will be accepted through May 11.

L&I will review and consider comments submitted before making any needed adjustments and adopting the permanent rule.

To help employers comply with these and other rules, L&I provides a host of free resources. Visit L&I’s Heat Smart web page to get more information on the current Outdoor Heat Exposure rules and the proposed rule updates.


For media information: Dina Lorraine, L&I Public Affairs, 360-972-4868.
L&I Newsroom (https://lni.wa.gov/news-events).
Connect with L&I: Facebook (facebook.com/laborandindustries) and Twitter (twitter.com/lniwa).

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