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Volume XI, Number 267

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Washington State Is Developing Wildfire Smoke Worker-Safety Rules

Smoke from Western wildfires caused Washington state to experience some of the worst air quality in the world this year, which increased health risks to outdoor workers. In response, the state’s Department of Labor & Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“L&I” or “Division”) announced that it is developing new workplace health and safety rules on wildfire smoke exposure hazards, particularly in the construction and agriculture industries. Over the next several months, and following issuance of a Notice of Intent (CR-101), L&I will hold meetings to gather information from stakeholders and begin drafting an occupational health standard on wildfire smoke to be included in chapter 296-62 of the Washington Administrative Code.

While some requirements of the rule are unknown, the new rule will likely address several key issues, including:

  • Identification of potentially harmful worker exposures to wildfire smoke and related air quality conditions;

  • Communication with employees on air quality conditions, exposure risks, and required controls;

  • Employee training and instruction; and

  • Required engineering and administrative controls to address potentially harmful exposures.

Washington is the second state after California to formally engage in rulemaking to protect workers from hazards related to wildfire smoke.

This new rule will add to existing (1) Division guidance on appropriate dust masks and filtering facepiece respirators for protecting employees from exposures to poor air quality conditions caused by wildfire smoke, and (2) guidance from the state’s Department of Health about reducing exposure to wildfire smoke.

Employers in Washington who have outdoor operations should keep an eye out for Division led stakeholder meetings, requests for public comment, and draft versions of a proposed wildfire rule. Employers can get up to date information on L&I’s rulemaking page and sign-up for alerts here.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2021National Law Review, Volume X, Number 328
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About this Author

Cressinda Schlag Environmental Health Lawyer Jackson Lewis Austin
Associate

Cressinda (“Chris”) D. Schlag is an associate in the Austin, Texas, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on environmental health and safety matters involving legal and regulatory compliance as well as federal and state government enforcement actions.

Before becoming an attorney, Ms. Schlag obtained a graduate degree in occupational health and safety and environmental management and worked as an environmental health and safety engineer and consultant with a variety of industries, including, for example, oil and gas, chemicals manufacturing and...

512-362-7100
Jonathan Minear, Employers Attorney, Wage and Hour Compliance Lawyer, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Seattle
Associate

Jonathan M. Minear is an Associate in the Seattle, Washington, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He focuses his practice on litigating workplace law matters and assisting employers with preventive advice and counsel.

Mr. Minear represents employers in state and federal courts in a broad range of matters, including harassment, discrimination, retaliation, employment torts, breach of contract, wage and hour compliance, and wrongful termination claims. He also appears before administrative agencies, such as the Equal Employment...

206-626-6432
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