Wash. – As summer quickly approaches, outdoor workers will experience hot weather conditions and possibly wildfire smoke. The Department of Labor and Industries decided to take action to try to protect these workers throughout the summer.
Starting on June 15 and going through September, employers will be required to follow the rules set in place for temperatures 89 degrees or higher. The requirements include providing enough water for workers to drink one quart every hour, 10 minute breaks every two hours, and enough shade for all workers on break at any given time.
In a press release, the United Farm Workers Foundation PNW Energy Relief Organizer Briseida Chavez said heat standards save lives.
“They also help create better working conditions for workers who already face a life of difficult working conditions. It is vital that the standards are enforced in the workplace, otherwise, workers will continue to risk their lives and succumb to heat illness that can easily be prevented.”
Employers will also be required to follow wildfire smoke requirements. If the Air Quality Index is at 69, they must reduce, reschedule or relocate work. The employer must also provide an area with filtered air and reduce the work intensity or increase breaks.
If the AQI reaches 101, employers must provide respirators for voluntary use—an increase in protection from last year’s wildfire smoke rule.
Employees are required to wear more protective respirators when particulates from wildfire smoke are measured at 555 micro-grams per cubic meter (μg/m3) or higher, a level extremely dangerous and rare.
According to a spokesperson for LNI, Matt Ross, working smokey conditions is a big risk to people’s health.
“We know the exposure to wildfire smoke and in particular the tiny little particles that you breathe into your lungs from the wildfire smoke we know that those are a hazard,” Ross said.
According to farm worker Fortino Lopez, when smoke gets bad, he is stopped from working. Lopez said he gets more protection than others might because he works through a union. This applies to both hot and smokey conditions.
“In other places, other ranches, they barley give them water and they keep the bathrooms really far away,” Lopez said.
Ross said they are also encouraging employers to be considerate to more vulnerable workers.
“We are encouraging employers to take that into account and to give those folks the help that they need, the assistance that they need even if the AQI doesn’t reach the levels where our requirements kick in,” Ross said.
Ross said LNI is working to make these protections permanent.
Lopez said while this is a small victory for farm workers, he would like to see more changes.
“I’d like them to give us masks all the time, they only give them to us when there’s a danger like smoke but not all the time and when you’re working with grapes they have a lot of chemicals and dust,” Lopez said.
If you’d like to learn more about outdoor worker’s rights click HERE.
Article Source: Fox 11