Certain employers are now required to train employees and supervisors about wildfire smoke, verify that employees showing symptoms of smoke exposure are monitored and receive medical care, and take actions to remove or reduce exposures to smoke when levels of particulate matter are high. The emergency rules also detail how employers can identify harmful smoke exposure risks and when to notify workers.
The new rule applies to “workplaces where the employer should reasonably anticipate that employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke” and excludes certain workplaces, such as enclosed buildings or structures in which the employer ensures that exterior openings are kept closed except as necessary to enter and exit, enclosed vehicles in which the air is filtered and the employer ensures that openings are kept closed except as necessary to enter or exit, and employees exposed to a low concentration of smoke for a total of one hour or less during a shift.
For sensitive groups and people with preexisting health conditions, L&I recommends employers take action to reduce employee exposure to dangerous air at even lower levels of particulate matter than the regulations require.
The emergency rules are now in effect but employers are given a brief grace period before enforcement begins. Washington is the second state behind California to adopt wildfire smoke regulations protecting workers.
For more information, contact the Ryan Swanson’s Employment Rights, Benefits & Labor group.