The Department of Labor and Industries (LNI) began enacting emergency rules to protect workers from ambient heat exposure and wildfire smoke in 2021. In 2022, LNI moved forward on enacting permanent rules on wildfire smoke exposure.
Wildfire Smoke Rules (Wildfire Smoke Rulemaking (wa.gov) – In recent years, wildfires in Washington state have become larger and more frequent. Following the 2020 wildfire season, LNI initiated annual emergency rulemaking to protect workers from breathing particulate matter contained in wildfire smoke. On May 10, 2023, LNI proposed permanent wildfire smoke rules to protect the health of workers exposed to wildfire smoke while on the job. Under the proposed rules, employers must monitor air quality, alert employees when the air is at certain exposure thresholds, encourage employees to report wildfire smoke hazards and receive medical treatment. The rules mandate the use of respirators by outdoor workers under certain air quality metrics.
WR is urging LNI to expand the definition of emergency response in the rule to include businesses that supply food, water, equipment, vehicle services, and essential supplies needed by emergency responders. Additionally, WR is urging that the definition of emergency response includes roadside response when keeping roads clear of vehicles aids in firefighting and emergency response in the impacted area.
Public hearings on the proposed wildfire smoke rules are scheduled around the state during July, with public comment closing on August 4, 2023.