Workplace safety during summer heat waves

Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Workplace safety during summer heat waves

The Department of Labor & Industries filed an emergency rule to provide increased protection for employees exposed to extreme heat, including those working in agriculture, construction and other outdoor industries. The new regulations supplement existing rules. When temperatures are at or above 100 degrees, employers must respond to the extreme heat by:

  • Providing shade or another sufficient means for employees to cool down; and
  • Ensuring workers have a paid cool-down rest period of at least 10 minutes every two hours.

When temperatures are at or above 89 degrees, employers must:

  • Provide water that is cool enough to drink safely;
  • Allow and encourage workers to take additional paid preventative cool-down rest to protect from overheating;
  • Have a written outdoor heat exposure safety program and provide training to employees; and
  • Respond appropriately to any employee with symptoms of heat-related illness.

The emergency rules update existing rules that are in place annually from May through the end of September. The existing rules already require ready access to at least one quart of drinking water per worker per hour, an outdoor heat exposure safety program with training, and an appropriate response to workers who are experiencing heat-related illness symptoms.

Technical assistance for small businesses

As businesses reopen, state launches SmartWA dashboard to help small businesses reopen safely

To help small business owners identify the safety protocols most likely to be important to customers, the Washington State Department of Commerce recently launched a new SmartWA business decision support system and COVID-19 dashboard.

SmartWA uses numerous data sources and artificial intelligence to provide small businesses most impacted by the pandemic with real-time outlooks about public health, economic and community conditions by county and industry. The decision support system features an interactive simulator that provides industry-specific predictions about which safety protocols are most likely to increase customer traffic in specific sectors. The tool is available in seven languages and was designed in collaboration with minority-owned small business owners from throughout the state.