BIAW joins opposition to emergency rules on wildfire smoke safety
June 26, 2021
The Washington Department of Labor & Industries has entered emergency rulemaking to address wildfire smoke exposure for outdoor workers. This includes those in construction and agriculture. The proposed rules require employers to provide respirators to outdoor workers or relocate them if the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches 69 or higher.
BIAW’s General Counsel Jackson Maynard filed comments on the rule on behalf of BIAW and its members on June 25.
In our comments, we argue L&I lacks jurisdiction to engage in rule-making on air quality and pollution control, and the state Department of Ecology has this authority.
We also point out that even if they do have the authority to adopt such rules, L&I should continue its formal rulemaking process to allow adequate time and notice for public participation in the process.
And finally, we note the AQI threshold of 69 is prohibitively low, noting that Seattle experienced an AQI of 69 recently with no active wildfires in Washington state.
Similarly, in its recent analysis of the rule’s effects on farmworkers, the Washington Policy Center points out:
On June 18, the AQI in Pasco was recorded at 84 by airnow.gov, the website recommended by L&I for tracking the AQI. According to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, which reports wildfire activity in Washington and Oregon during wildfire season, the nearest active fire on that date was in Maupin, Ore., approximately 169 miles to the south.
The rules are modeled after those in California, yet California’s threshold is 151. According to a recent article in the Capital Press, Oregon is considering rules with a threshold of 101.
BIAW values its workers and their safety, but we urge a different approach.
Share your thoughts with L&I
If you’d like to weigh in on this rule, please send your written remarks by June 29 to:
Cindy Ireland, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH)
- Address: PO Box 44620 Olympia WA 98504-4620
- Email: ireland@Lni.wa.gov
- Fax: 360-902-5619, Phone: 360-902-5522