The Washington Department of Labor & Industries has renewed its emergency rules for temporary worker housing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency rules help protect farmworkers who live in seasonal or temporary housing while working harvests.
L&I and the Department of Health originally collaborated to produce emergency rules in May 2020 after Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency and issued stay at home and social distancing orders. Rules for temporary worker housing govern ventilation, requirements during outbreaks, vaccinations and education, among other areas of interest.
Emergency rules have been renewed eight times since then. These latest rules went into effect Sept. 16 and replace the previous set of rules, which expired May 20.
In its news release, L&I pointed to two updates. Workers who test positive for COVID-19 can exit quarantine if they comply with DOH guidelines. If individuals have no symptoms or decreasing symptoms after five days, they can leave isolation.
Individuals who are waiting for their COVID-19 test results also have increased protections. Operators are required to provide them transportation for any medical evaluation or treatment.
The rest of the rules are largely the same, according to the L&I news release. Housing operators are required to provide education to workers in a language workers understand and the allow community health and outreach workers into worker housing. Ventilation should be maximized and workers should be informed of actions they can take to increase air flow, like opening windows and using HVAC units.
Housing operators must also provide separated living space for those who test positive for COVID-19 and cooperate with health care providers. In telehealth cases, L&I’s rules state operators must ensure that workers have working phones.
DOH and L&I are both seeking to update permanent rules for worker housing to protect against infectious diseases, according to the news release.