As the wildfire season approaches, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has proposed permanent wildfire smoke rules to protect outdoor workers in response to the increasing frequency of these type of fires throughout Washington state and the Pacific Northwest.
The rules aim to safeguard workers from eye irritation, reduced lung function, aggravated asthma, heart failure, and premature death caused by inhaling smoke particles.
Based on the Air Quality Index, specifically the NowCast AQI, the proposed rules outline measures such as smoke response plans, safety training, emergency protocols, respiratory protection, feasible exposure controls, and relocation to clean air spaces.
The L&I addresses concerns about cost impacts on industries and consumers, stating that the costs of smoke exposure are already borne by businesses and the public. However, some worry the rules lack precision and may label employers as bullies.
The rules will undergo public hearings in July, allowing stakeholders to provide feedback. L&I will review the comments, make updates, and file the final rule in mid-August.