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Outdoor workers in Washington receive new protections after heat wave

Washington has on average 55 workers' compensation claims per year for heat-related illnesses, according to L&I.

WASHINGTON — The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries filed an emergency rule Friday to provide more protections for employees exposed to extreme heat, including those working in agriculture, construction and other outdoor industries.

The emergency Outdoor Heat Exposure rule clarifies proactive steps that employers must take to prevent outdoor workers from suffering heat-related illness. The new regulations will take effect on July 13.

The new protections come after a historic heat wave hit the Pacific Northwest.

RELATED: Spokane County reports 20 heat-related deaths in 6 days

When the temperature is at or above 100 degrees, employers must respond to the extreme heat by providing shade or another sufficient means for employees to cool down. They must also ensure workers have a paid cool-down rest period of at least ten minutes every two hours.

When temperatures are at or above 89 degrees employers must provide cool water, allow workers to take addition cool-down breaks and respond to any employee with symptoms of heat-related illness. 

Gov. Jay Inslee said in a press release from Washington State Department of Labor and Industries that the there needs to be safety measures catastrophic heat.

“Our state has rules in place to ensure these risks are mitigated, however, the real impacts of climate change have changed conditions since those rules were first written and we are responding,” Inslee said.  

Old regulations previously required employers to have outdoor heat safety plans, ready access to at least one quart of drinking water per worker per hour and an appropriate response to workers displaying symptoms of heat-related illness.  

Washington has on average 55 workers' compensation claims per year for heat-related illnesses, according to L&I.