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Outdoor workers in Washington will receive more protections starting Tuesday

Under the new regulations, and depending on the outdoor temperature, employers must ensure workers have a paid cool-down rest period.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Starting Tuesday, employees who are exposed to the extreme heat will have more protections. 

The Washington Department of Labor and industries filed an emergency rule with steps that employers must take to prevent outdoor workers from suffering a heat-related illness. The outdoor heat exposure rule applies to people working in agriculture, construction, and other outdoor industries. 

Rich Sgarra maintains the Spokane conservation district’s nursery. Most of his work is in the shade. 

"When it's that hot, it really does take a toll on you, even if you're just walking around," Sgarra said.  

Under the new regulations, and depending on the outdoor temperature, employers must now ensure workers have a paid cool-down rest period. It must be at least ten minutes every two hours.  

RELATED: Spokane County reports 20 heat-related deaths in 6 days

They must also provide water and shade to cool down in.  

“Human resource is the most important resource and you have to take care of them,” Sgarra said.  

He knows the importance of hydrating on the job. Sgarra carries a water bottle with him in his back pocket and fills it with water ten times every day.  

“After I’m done with my first 20 ounces of coffee, it’s 20 ounces of water all day,” Sgarra said. 

Some employers told KREM 2's Amanda Roley the new rules are common sense and already in practice. 

The Water Resources division of the Spokane Conservation District employs several people who regularly work outdoors. They already train staff annually on heat safety.  

“It's just an opportunity for us to check in with our employees, and make sure that they're comfortable with the situation," Lindsay Chutas, Spokane Conservation District employee said. 

She adds, the shade component may be a challenge for other industries to provide. 

"Confirming that they have a spot to take a break I think is the big shift." Chutas said. "That's a big difficult thing that not everybody across industries can do.” 

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