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April 19, 2006

L&I takes steps to prevent work-related heat stress

TUMWATER — The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) said today it is taking multiple steps to address the problem of heat stress when working outdoors in hot weather in occupations such as construction, public road work and agriculture. Working outdoors in hot weather can put employees at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is a serious health problem and heat stroke can kill.

To address the issue in time for the hot summer months, L&I will:

  • Issue an emergency rule modifying an existing rule on indoor temperature exposure so that by June 1, the rule is applicable to working outdoors.
  • Launch a coordinated hazard-awareness effort with business and labor organizations to educate employers and workers in the industries most affected by hot weather.

As part of regularly scheduled inspections and consultations in affected industries, ensure that heat-stress precautions are in place and effective.

Employers are expected to evaluate their workplaces and determine if their employees will be at risk from heat-related illness during temperature extremes and hot weather. Workplaces must have a safety plan in place to train employees on recognizing the symptoms and preventing heat-related illness.

Intense discussions on the need for an outdoor heat-stress rule began last year after an agriculture worker died from heat stroke, and L&I recognized that its temperature exposure rule did not apply to the outdoors.

“We all acknowledge that heat stress is a serious concern,” said L&I Director Gary Weeks. “The department has worked extensively with both business and labor to address this serious hazard by balancing our enforcement and education efforts.”

Steve Cant, assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health at L&I, said the agency spent several months looking at various approaches to protecting workers.

“It is important to have this rule change and education effort in place for this summer,” said Cant. “We looked at the possibility of a new rule, but after fully reviewing our existing rules and all the input from business, labor and worker advocates, we concluded that the best approach was to ensure we have effective enforcement tools for worker protection at the least burden and expense to those we regulate.”

In May, L&I will launch a comprehensive education-and-outreach campaign that will include hazard‑awareness training and printed materials. For more information on preventing heat‑related illness, please visit www.LNI.wa.gov/safety/topics/AtoZ/heatstress.

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Media contact: Elaine Fischer at 360-902-5413 or at nele235@LNI.wa.gov. Or visit the L&I News and Media Center at www.LNI.wa.gov/News.

Broadcast version
The Department of Labor & Industries announced today that it will take multiple steps to protect workers from heat stress when working outdoors in hot weather. This has been the focus of intense discussion since last summer, when an agriculture worker died from heat stroke.

L&I will adopt an emergency rule by June 1 to make an existing rule applicable to outdoor work and will begin checking for compliance during regular inspections and employer visits.

In addition, L&I will launch an education campaign to raise awareness of heat stress in occupations such as construction, public road work and agriculture.

For more information, go to www.LNI.wa.gov.


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