First heat wave of the year in Washington triggering new heat rules for outdoor workers

Temperatures expected in Washington this week are expected to trigger protections designed to prevent heat-related illnesses in farming, gardening, construction and other outdoor jobs.

Predicted temperatures above 90 degrees in Eastern Washington mean the rules, overseen by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, require frequent breaks, access to shade and water cold enough to drink.

State heat rules include protections for outdoor workers that kick in at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with additional requirements when it’s very hot. The rules also require close observation of all workers anywhere temperatures are 80 degrees or higher and 10 or more degrees above average temperatures over the past five days.

At 80 degrees or higher, employers must:

  • Encourage and allow workers to take paid rest periods to recover as needed;
  • Provide sufficient shade or other cooling for all employees during a meal or rest break;
  • Provide enough cold drinking water for each employee to drink one liter per hour;
  • Closely observe new employees, employees returning from leaves of absence, and all employees during heat waves.

At 90 degrees or higher, employers must require a 10-minute paid rest period every two hours. When the temperature reaches 100 degrees or higher, the break requirement becomes 15 minutes of paid cool-down break each hour.

L&I updated its heat protection rules last year, lowering the trigger temperature from 89 to 80 degrees and making the rules effective year-round depending on temperature.


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