News for Small Business - September 2006


Workplace smoking rules change to match no-smoking initiative

Voters passed Initiative 901 last November, banning smoking in and around any facility open to the public. L&I has proposed changes to its current workplace safety and health rules to match those new requirements.  This proposal would not place any additional restrictions on smoking in and around workplaces beyond those required by Initiative 901.

Here’s how the workplace safety and health rule for smoking would change:

  • Rules formerly allowed indoor smoking areas in an office environment if the employer met requirements for ventilating the room and isolating other employees from the smoke generated within the room. That portion of the rule will be repealed because it is not allowed under Initiative 901.
  • Rules formerly noted that designated outdoor smoking areas were exempted from the rule requirements. Now those areas must meet Initiative 901 requirements — meaning they must be at least 25 feet away from doors, windows that can be opened, and ventilating intakes of any facility open to public use, regardless of whether the facility is privately or publicly owned.
  • L&I's workplace smoking rules have always applied only to office environments, and this rule also would apply to office environments only. All other smoking requirements are controlled by Initiative 901, which is administered by local health departments and the state Department of Health.
  • Rules that prohibit smoking in or around flammable materials such as gasoline are not affected.

You can find proposed rule language on the L&I web site at:

You can find information about Initiative 901 at:

Call Gail Hughes, 360-902-5439, if you have questions about the proposed rule.

Comments on the proposed L&I rule change must be sent by Oct. 2, 2006, to:

Christine Swanson
Department of Labor & Industries
P.O. Box 44001
Olympia, WA 98504-4001

Risk classifications in metals manufacturing go back to drawing board

If you’re in the metals manufacturing business and were expecting your workers’ compensation risk classification to change next year, be prepared to keep the current one instead.

L&I wanted to establish a new, simpler classification system for the metals manufacturing industry next year that links the risk of injury (and the resulting premium) to how the product is produced, not the type of product made. The current classification structure has five basic risk classifications (3402, 3404, 5109, 5208 and 5209) with 56 sub-codes, most of which are tied to a specific product. Many of the products are produced in exactly the same manner and, as a result, different rates are sometimes charged to companies making different products, even though the process they use may be the same.

In June, L&I held public hearings and adopted the new system. However, two companies protested the change and said it would unfairly increase their workers’ compensation rates. So we have proposed, through the normal rulemaking process, to reverse that decision and keep classifications as they currently are while we talk to businesses in the industry in more detail about what changes can be made.

L&I sent letters of explanation to companies in the industry, and those same companies will be notified about upcoming public hearings, which are a legal requirement for L&I to reverse its earlier decision. No new proposals will be presented at this time.

If you want to receive a copy of the letter and be on the mailing list, please contact Karen Chamberlain at or call her at 360-902-4772. You may also contact Karen if you have suggestions or would like to help propose new rules on this issue.

If you have other classification questions or concerns, please call Ron Moore, Acting Program Manager for L&I’s Employer Services division, at 360-902-4748.

Featured L&I web page

Use the Internet to keep an eye on L&I regulations

When L&I plans to develop a new regulation, or “rule,” it publishes a proposal in several places, including the L&I web site. Workplace health and safety (WISHA), wage and hour, and workers’ compensation all publish their proposed rules here:

Don’t want to be checking L&I rules all of the time? Have rule updates sent to your e-mail each month by signing up for L&I’s rules e-mail service. To subscribe, go to:

Tools to save time and money

Free business training and tips at Biz Fair Sept. 9

Washington’s 10th annual Small Business Fair will be chock full of solid, practical business information that you can use right away if you’re thinking of starting a business, planning to expand your small business or looking to make your company more successful.

The 2006 “Biz Fair” will be held at Renton Technical College from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9. Admission and all seminars are free, and there’s plenty of free parking and no advance registration. For more information about the 2006 Biz Fair, including a complete list of seminars and driving directions, visit

A popular feature of the fair is a panel discussion entitled “Finding Cash for Your Business,” which will discuss traditional and alternative forms of financing.

In addition, you can choose from a full day of information and training from more than 30 businesses, trade organizations and government agencies.

Here’s a sample of topics offered this year:

  • Licensing Made Simple.
  • Even If It’s in Your Home, It’s Still a Business.
  • Business Law Essentials.
  • Keys to Small Business Success.
  • Generate Profits Using the Internet.
  • Building and Marketing a Service Business.
  • Thinking about Hiring Workers?

Food service will be available at the event.

Free safety and risk management help for small business

A new, no-cost small-business session designed specifically to help businesses with 25 or fewer workers debuts this year at the 55th Annual Governor's Industrial Safety and Health Conference.

This year’s theme is “Building Your Bottom Line — Proven Management Techniques for Small Business.” You’ll learn how to protect your business by:

  • Understanding the true costs of a workplace accident.
  • Preventing costly accidents and injuries.
  • Controlling workers’ compensation costs.
  • Avoiding common rule violations.

The program will be taught by a panel of distinguished presenters from the University of Washington, Argus Pacific, and the Evergreen Safety Council. Each attendee will receive a complementary CD-ROM of the new and easy-to-use “Safety and Health Checklists for Small Business” used in the presentations.

The Small Business Track will be held in Spokane on Sept. 27 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park. In addition, attendees are invited to the opening session of the conference to hear the keynote speaker, as well as visit the trade show, attend OSHA recordkeeping training and watch the forklift rodeo, all at no cost.

Registration is at the door the day of the event. Don't miss out on this valuable training. For more information, please contact Ken Mettler or 360-902-6307 or on the web at

FOCUS ON: Wage and hour requirements

New law gives L&I leverage to solve worker pay disputes

A new law passed in 2006 – the Wage Payment Act — strengthens L&I’s ability to collect wages on behalf of workers while, at the same time, giving employers stronger assurances when they have correctly paid their workers.

Under the new law, L&I investigates wage complaints filed by employees and works with employers and employees to resolve them. If the dispute can’t be worked out, L&I will either issue a citation and ask the employer to pay the wages or determine that the employer does not owe wages. Either way, the employer or the worker can appeal L&I’s decision through an administrative process.

The new law requires L&I to waive the penalty if the employer pays the owed wages within 10 days of receiving a citation. An employee who accepts the payment of wages and interest is barred from pursuing other actions for the same complaint. Also, L&I cannot assess penalties if an employer relied on a written interpretation, determination, rule, or policy from L&I's director.

The new process is a significant change from the way L&I handled wage claims in the past. Information will be added to the wage and hour page of the L&I web site as the new law is implemented. Please see

If you have questions, please contact your nearest L&I office or call L&I’s Employment Standards division in Tumwater at 360-902-5316.

L&I Small Business Contact:

Ron Langley
Small Business Liaison
Phone: 360-902-4205
Fax: 360-902-4202

Want to subscribe to L&I News for Small Business? Contact Ron using the contact information listed above.

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