L&I proposes new permanent rules for outdoor heat exposure
April 3, 2023
The Department of Labor and Industries has proposed troubling new permanent rules for outdoor heat exposure. BIAW members work hard to protect our employees from health and safety risks on the job, but these rules go too far, resulting in difficult work schedules for employees and slowing down construction at the height of a housing crisis.
As part of the rulemaking process, L&I must gather stakeholder feedback. This is our chance to help improve these rules for workers, current and future homeowners and the building industry.
Permanent rules for outdoor heat exposure
Among other things, the proposed rules:
- Apply year-round whenever workers are exposed to outdoor heat
- Affect workers in “non-breathable” clothes at 52°F and in all other clothing at 80°F, down from 89°F under current rules
- Require employers to provide enough shade for all employees
- Impose a 14-day monitoring requirement for employees not acclimatized to the heat, including new employees, those returning from absences, and all workers during a heat wave
- Mandate 10-minute rest breaks every two hours at 90°F or above, and 15-minute breaks every hour at 100°F and above
Good intentions, difficult to implement
Recognizing the building industry should take appropriate action to protect workers from heat-related issues, we have some concerns about the rules as written and encourage builders, remodelers and others to weigh in with their own concerns.
The 80°F trigger temperature is very low, especially in eastern Washington during the summer. We recommend L&I consider different trigger temperatures depending on the region. Some areas are more acclimatized than others.
No consideration in the rule for individuals already acclimatized prior to starting a job. Workers who live in Yakima already are used to 80-plus degree temperatures because they live it every day.
- Why would these workers need 14-day monitoring?
- Why would a person who left a job for seven days, but stayed in the same climate zone need to be re-acclimatized?
- How are employers supposed to recognize whether an employee has become acclimatized? They are not medical experts.
- What happens when an employer believes that a worker is acclimatized, but the employee disagrees?
Unlimited rest breaks are ripe for abuse with no recourse for an employer. While, of course, employers support the need to rest as needed in hot weather, we fear employers will be subject to labor law violations if they do not allow unlimited rest breaks. When other workers can’t rely on their team to complete their work, it puts everyone in jeopardy.
Alternative work schedules conflict with local noise ordinances. The department suggests construction companies consider alternative work schedules to avoid working during the hottest part of the day. Sadly, in many jurisdictions, noise ordinances will prevent work being done before 8 a.m. We propose working with local governments to allow early work on days when a company expects temperatures to exceed trigger levels. This should supersede any local ordinance if worker safety is a priority.
Share your concerns
BIAW encourages employers, especially those who regularly work in warmer weather, to weigh in.
Public comment ends May 11
You can submit written comments through 5 pm on May 11, 2023.
Carmyn Shute, Administrative Regulations Analyst Division of Occupational Safety and Health PO Box 44620 Olympia, WA 98504-4620
Five in-person public hearings scheduled
- Bellingham: April 25, 2023, 10 a.m.
SpringHill Suites by Marriott
4040 Northwest Ave., Bellingham, WA 98226
- Kennewick: April 26 2023, 10 a.m.
SpringHill Suites by Marriott
7048 West Grandridge Blvd., Kennewick, WA 99336
- Spokane: April 27, 2023, 10 a.m.
Hampton Inn by Hilton
2010 S Assembly Road, Spokane, WA 99224
- Tukwila: May 2, 2022, 10 a.m.
Department of Labor and Industries
12806 Gateway Drive S, Tukwila, WA 98168
- Vancouver: May 3, 2023, 10 a.m.
Clark College at Columbia Tech Center
18700 SE Mill Plain Blvd Vancouver WA 98683
Virtual public hearing
May 4, 2023, 2 p.m.
Join electronically: https://Lni-wa-gov.zoom.us/j/89566996553?pwd=QzNGMlhTT3V3RGtFTGhMS2tYYlo5UT09
To join by phone (audio only): 1-253-215-8782
Meeting ID: 895 6699 6553
L&I will provide a pre-hearing overview one hour prior to the start of each public hearing. The hearings will begin at the indicated times and will continue until all oral comments are received.
Share your concerns with BIAW to incorporate into our comments on behalf of the industry. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.