UPDATE: State’s heat exposure rules

You will recall that we alerted Whatcom Business Alliance members earlier this summer to the state’s new, temporary heat rules that some Whatcom County businesses have been required to have in place over the summer. We now want to share what the WA State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is proposing as year-round rules for employees that work outside in our state. Draft language for the new permanent outdoor heat-exposure rules were presented in early August and you have an opportunity to share your thoughts/concerns on August 31st.

L&I released “emergency rules” for Summer 2021 and again this year (June 15-September 29) which require rest breaks, water and shade for employees working outside in high temperatures among other regulations. These have applied to several industries including agriculture, construction, and delivery jobs.

The state is now also looking at having them in effect year-round, proposing lower “trigger temperatures” and how to define what constitutes a “heat wave.” According to a Yakima Herald-Republic article from August 12th, they are also “deciding between providing a more universal work-rest cycle table or allowing employers and employees to make their own work-rest cycles.”

Heat, and of course extreme heat, is a serious safety concern, but the formation of permanent and year-round rules must be based on science and common sense to ensure that they are not adding unnecessary costs to the already high cost that businesses are facing at this time while also protecting their workers. Here are some of the concerns on how this will impact both employers of all sizes and workers from the Washington Tree Fruit Association:

  • L&I’s presentation contains a table that, if adopted… would limit productive work anywhere from 5-45 minutes per hour, which will result in significant lost productivity.
  • Per state law the agency needs to prepare a small business impact statement based on the economic impacts of this proposed rule which clearly exceed the threshold of imposing “more than minor costs on a business in an industry…”WSTFA is calling on L&I to conduct the study and to allow adequate time to comment on the impact study findings and any other mitigation methods as required by the statute.
  • L&I needs to provide data to demonstrate if there is any justification for moving forward with these new measures based on workers compensation claims data from the current heat rules.
  • Employers should have an option to proof of annual approved training from another WA state employer for those employees who have already received training that year so this redundant expense can be eliminated.

These new rules are still in draft form and L&I is seeking feedback. The most effective way is to attend the Department of Labor and Industries upcoming meeting to share your thoughts:

When: 1 pm on Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Registration link: https://lni-wa-gov.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ZUF0u0hiTbKKpivDOWUDgA
Phone: (253) 215-8782
Meeting ID: 869 5820 4409
Passcode: 55587232
Once you register, L&I will send you a confirmation email and calendar item with your unique personal meeting link or phone number and the password.  On the day/time of the meeting, you will need to click on that link or call, enter the appropriate password and then you will be in attendance. (Note: Please check spam or junk mail for this confirmation email as it will be coming from Zoom.)
And/or you can contact Administrative Regulations Analyst Carmyn Shute at carmyn.shute@Lni.wa.gov or 360-902-6081. 

WBA also encourages you to contact your 40th and 42nd District legislators and share your thoughts.