By MALLORY GRUBEN
After back-to-back summers with widespread wildfires, Washington state’s workplace safety agency has proposed a new rule to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke.
Wildfire smoke contains chemicals, gases, and fine particles that can be harmful for health. Working in smoky conditions increases the risk of serious health effects like asthma and heart failure, especially for outdoor workers in construction and agriculture.
Currently, no permanent regulations exist in Washington to address wildfire smoke as a workplace hazard, according to the state’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health on May 10 proposed a permanent rule that would require employers to monitor air quality and alert workers as it reaches unhealthy or unsafe levels. The proposal also outlines when employers must provide masks or respirators to workers, among other protections. It is similar to emergency rules L&I put in place for the summers of 2021 and 2022.
Details of the proposal are at Lni.wa.gov/WildfireSmoke.
YOUR CHANCE TO WEIGH IN: To learn more and submit comments on the proposal, Southwest Washington residents can attend an in-person public hearing at 10 a.m. July 25 at the Clark College Columbia Tech Center on 18700 SE Mill Plain Blvd. in Vancouver. L&I will also host a virtual hearing via Zoom at 2 p.m. July 28 (Visit https://bit.ly/3J4lkRr and use password Wildfire@1 if needed). The hour before each hearing, L&I officials will summarize the changes and answer questions. Aug. 4 is the deadline to submit public comments.