Wildfires Spark WA to Issue Rules to Protect Workers from Smoke
Washington is currently under a state of emergency as already more than 600 wildfires have been reported this year.
Outdoor workers in jobs of construction, agriculture, lawn care workers. etc., are exposed to harmful elements that put someone's health at risk.
What's being done about it?
To help workers, the Department of Labor & Industries filed emergency rules. Washington is the second state to issue safety regulations. California established rules protecting workers from wildfire smoke in 2019.
“This wildfire season is shaping up to be even worse than last year,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “We’re establishing these emergency rules to protect employees who have to work outside, breathing in smoky air all day long.”
How will these emergency rules help?
The new wildfire smoke rules instruct employers on identifying harmful smoke exposure risks and require employers to:
Train employees and supervisors about wildfire smoke;
Ensure employees showing symptoms of wildfire smoke exposure are monitored and receive medical care when necessary; and,
Take actions to eliminate or reduce exposures to wildfire smoke where feasible, when levels of particulate matter are high.
When an employer feels that a worker's health may be at risk, other options should be explored, such as:
Moving work to enclosed buildings, structures, or vehicles where the air is adequately filtered;
Moving employees to areas with lower smoke exposure;
Reducing work intensity;
Providing additional rest periods; and,
Providing employees with respirators, such as an N95 or a KN95 disposal mask at no cost for voluntary use when levels of particulate matter are high.
What happens next?
The emergency rules are in effect IMMEDIATELY.
More information regarding the rulemaking process can be found here.