Heat rules for outdoor workers are in force, no such rules for indoor workers

RENTON, Wash. — The heat is on especially for outdoor workers.

The state’s new “hot weather rules” for those workers went into effect as soon as we got above 90 degrees. But the state hasn’t provided any new relief for those working in stifling conditions inside.

The state is supposedly working on this. The effort to keep workers safe in the heat is being done in two phases. The first, perhaps most critical phase was for workers forced to be outdoors in the heat.

For journeyman carpenter Gabriel Fore, this second workday in the heat, well, he’s seen worse.

“Yesterday was hotter,” Fore said.

Still, he says he is well versed in what to do when the temperature soars, as it has for the last few days.

“Drink lots of water,” he advised. “Just push through it. The job’s got to get done either way.”

And there’s the rub.

So, last year, the state’s Department of Labor and Industries instituted new rules for working outdoors in the heat. When the thermometer hits 90 degrees, employees must get 10-minute cool-down breaks every two hours. When it rises to 100 degrees, the number of breaks increases to 15-minute pauses, every hour.

Employers must also provide shade and at least a quart of cool water every hour for every employee. But some people work in oppressive heat indoors.

“Well, we’re working on that,” said Matt Ross, an LnI spokesman. He says the greatest urgency was protecting outdoor workers in the heat. But now the agency is shifting to those who earn their living inside.

“As far as what the rules for indoor workers will look like,” he said, “we work really closely with workers, advocates, community and businesses to make sure our rules are both protective and feasible and able to be implemented.”

As for Gabriel Fore, he says he moved here from California. So he’ll take the heat around here anytime.

“I won’t go back to California, either,” he said. “Too expensive and too hot.”

LnI says workers who feel their employer is not complying with the new heat rules may complain online or in person anonymously, too.

As for new heat rules for indoor workers, Matt Ross says that work is supposed to get started in about a year.

So, stay tuned.

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