Washington Developing Wildfire Smoke Worker-Safety Rules

October 23, 2020

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries is developing new workplace safety and health rules regarding wildfire smoke.

The L&I announced the move this week in response to an increasing number of acres burned by wildfires in the state each year.

Smoke from the Western wildfires last month left Washington with some of the worst air quality in the world at times, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

This week, L&I filed the official notification, known as a CR-101, the first step in the rulemaking process.

“It’s clear that wildfire smoke isn’t a short-term issue. It impacts all of us, but is especially concerning for workers who have to be outside and breathe it in all day long,” Craig Blackwood, deputy assistant director, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in a statement. “By developing clear rules that spell out the safety and health requirements related to protective equipment and training, we can help businesses protect workers from these serious hazards.”

Some of the issues expected to be addressed in the new rules include:

  • Identification of harmful exposures;
  • Training and instruction; and
  • Control of harmful exposures.

Washington is just the second state to formally undertake rulemaking regarding workers and wildfire smoke, following California adopting rules in 2019, according to L&I.

L&I plans to hold meetings in the next few months to begin gathering information from stakeholders to help create an initial draft wildfire smoke rule. Like all rulemaking processes, once there is an official draft rule, there will also be opportunities for public input.

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