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New permanent heat rules: Stay cool & compliant

June 30, 2023

The Department of Labor and Industries recently released its new permanent heat rules for outdoor exposure. These new rules go into effect on July 17. 

New permanent heat rules: What’s required

You must now implement the new heat rules at 52 degrees Fahrenheit if employees are wearing non-breathable clothing, for example: denim coveralls. It’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit for all other types of breathable clothing. 

  • You must closely observe for 14 consecutive days all employees not acclimatized to the heat, this includes all new employees (even if they live in the area), employees returning from absences of seven days or more and ALL employees during a heat wave. The rules define heat waves as days when the heat will be at or above the action levels and at least 10 degrees higher than the five-day average highs. 
  • The new rules define “close observation” as regular communication with employees working alone, such as by radio or cellular phone (texts); a mandatory buddy system; or other effective means of observation.  

New rest break requirements

Employers must encourage and allow employees to take preventative cool-down rest periods at or above outdoor temperature action levels (52 degrees for non-breathable clothing and 80 degrees for breathable clothing). In addition: 

  • At or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, employers must provide a 10-minute cool-down rest period every two hours. They must closely observe to help identify employees showing signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.  
  • At or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the cool-down rest periods must be 15 minutes every hour 
  • These breaks can be taken at the same time as any meal or rest period under wage and hour laws and must be paid unless taken during a meal period.  

Cool water and shade

  • Drinking water must be suitably cool in temperature.  Employers must provide at least one quart/hour to each worker at the applicable action level which is 52 degrees Fahrenheit for workers in “non-breathable” clothing and 80 degrees for all other types of clothing.
  • Employers must also provide shade or other sufficient means for cooling down any time heat rises to at or above 52 degrees Fahrenheit for workers in “non-breathable” clothing and 80 degrees for all other types of clothing.
  • There must be enough shade for all employees on a meal or rest period to sit fully in the shade. Shade must be located close to where employees are working.  

Updated Accident Prevention Plans & resources

  • Employers must update their written accident prevention programs to include the new rules. They must also update training requirements to incorporate the changes in the adopted rule.  

L&I has heat illness training, an educational pocket card and short videos like the one below to help you comply.

BIAW recommends thorough documentation of your jobsite heat procedures, including maintaining records for the mandatory 14-day acclimatization observation.  We know these rules are cumbersome and confusing, but please work to find compliance pathway to avoid safety violations and fines. BIAW stands ready to assist how we can so you can continue to build Washington’s neighborhoods. 

Questions? Contact 

For more information, visit the Outdoor Heat Exposure page on Labor & Industries website. 

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