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Updated June 5, 2007

L&I continues effort to protect workers from heat-related illness

TUMWATER — With summer months here and outdoor temperatures rising, employers need to take precautions to prevent heat-related illness for anyone working outdoors in hot weather, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) said today.

For the second summer in a row, L&I is adopting an emergency rule to protect outdoor workers from heat-related illness. The rule takes effect June 18.

Working outdoors in hot weather can put employees at risk for heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat-related illness is a serious health condition that can cause disability and death.

The emergency rule includes provisions that require employers to:

  • Establish and implement written procedures to prevent heat-related illness
  • Provide and make accessible enough drinking water so that on days when employees are exposed to the hazards of heat-related illness, each employee can drink at least one quart of water per hour.
  • Have procedures in place to respond to employees who are showing signs of heat-related illness.
  • Provide effective heat-related-illness prevention training to employees and supervisors.

“Heat stress is a serious concern,” said Steve Cant, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “L&I has worked extensively with both business and labor to address this serious hazard by developing an emergency rule that employers find reasonable, as well as continuing our outreach efforts.”

Heat-related illness is a well-known, recognized hazard in industries where employees work outdoors. Currently, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act and other state safety programs regulate it.

Discussions on the need for an outdoor-heat rule in Washington began in 2005 after an agriculture worker died from heat stroke, and L&I recognized that existing regulations did not adequately protect employees working outdoors in hot weather. Then in July 2006, a construction laborer died after laying pipe in a trench during 100-degree weather.

A permanent rule will be adopted in early 2008. L&I will develop a small-business economic impact statement and will hold public hearings around the state so that all who are interested have an opportunity to participate.

For more information on workshops and training materials for 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.

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