Emergency heat and wildfire smoke rules now in effect for outdoor employees

July 22, 2021

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) filed two new emergency rules concerning wildfire smoke and severe heat that apply to all employees who primarily work outside. Most hospital employees will not be impacted by these rules since they work inside. However, hospital employees potentially covered by these rules include landscaping and maintenance staff, security staff, parking attendants, and any other employee who works predominantly outside of the hospital. The wildfire smoke rules require employers to determine smoke levels at their worksite and inform employees of potential hazards. Employers must also provide respiratory protection under serious smoke conditions and implement training and procedures for staff potentially exposed to severe wildfire smoke.

The severe heat rules build on existing rules and require employers to provide “suitably cool” drinking water and allow employees working outside on days when the temperature is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit to take 10 minute cooldown breaks every two hours. Employers are also required to have written outdoor heat exposure policies and train their employees about heat exposure safety. Both the wildfire smoke and severe heat rules were filed on a temporary emergency basis and will be replaced with permanent rules later this year. Click to read the plain language summaries in L&I’s press releases on the wildfire smoke rules and severe heat rules.


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