Washington L&I Conducts Ambient Heat Exposure Rulemaking
The Department is conducting rulemaking to update the requirements for occupational heat exposure from high ambient temperatures in all industries, including outdoor and indoor exposures. According to the pre-proposal filed on August 17, 2021, this permanent rulemaking will consider requirements for trigger temperatures or another measure of environmental conditions stress to the human body such as the heat index or wet bulb globe temperature, time frames for when the rule is in effect, preventative measures (i.e. water, shade or other cooling means, and rest time/breaks), emergency response measures, training, and planning. The stated reason for the rulemaking was new information suggesting the occurrence of heat illnesses below the current rigger temperatures as well as increasing temperatures in Washington.
In addition, an emergency rule regarding outdoor heat exposure was adopted on July 13, 2021, which addressed extreme high heat procedures, requirements for preventative cool-down rest periods, specific amounts of shade, and mandatory cool-down rest periods at 100 degrees.
At a stakeholder meeting held on March 17, 2022, the Department confirmed it hopes to complete new, likely different, emergency rulemaking effective the summer of 2022 and is currently gathering evidence that will apply to both a new emergency rule as well as an eventual permanent rule. The first phase of the permanent rulemaking will focus on outdoor exposure, with indoor exposure being addressed in the next phase. According to the Department, construction and agriculture are the industries with the most accepted state fund claims for heat exposure. The number of accepted self-insured cases was not given. However, heat stress incidents are higher in the agriculture field. An additional stakeholder meeting will take place on May 4, 2022, at which time topics of discussion are expected to include trigger temperatures, shade, cool/potable water, rest breaks, and training.
If the Department decides to go forward with the permanent rulemaking, it will eventually draft a rule for formal comment. The rule drafting process alone can take months or years. On the other hand, emergency rulemaking can be used when a rule is needed before the standard rulemaking process can be completed and does not require public notice or hearing. Emergency rules can remain in effect for up to 120 days after filing.
If you have any questions regarding the ambient heat exposure rule making and its potential impact on self-insured employers, feel free to contact me at or by telephone at 503-595-6114.
Posted by: Elizabeth Aaberg