On May 20, 2022, Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and Department of Health (DOH) made yet another update to the emergency COVID-19 (coronavirus) safety rules for temporary worker housing (TWH) in the agriculture industry. The rules took effect immediately. Here are the important changes:
Education on exposure and testing positive: The previous version of the rules required education on several topics, including how COVID-19 spreads and how to get vaccinated against it. The new rules add education on what occupants should do if they are exposed or test positive. (See section (1)(a)(i).)
Revert to permanent rule regarding sleeping quarters and alternative group shelter option: The current rule eliminates all the specific requirements concerning distancing, bed placement, bunk beds, and the alternative group shelter option, which means operators may now go back to the requirements on these topics in the regular TWH rules at WAC 296-307-16170.
Elimination of most cleaning and sanitizing requirements: All the COVID-19 specific cleaning and sanitizing mandates are removed, except that the operator still must clean and disinfect areas where symptomatic or confirmed cases have been and must maintain adequate handwashing supplies. (See section (1)(e).)
Screening and isolation of suspected and confirmed cases: Many changes were made to section 2 of the rules, including an update to the symptoms used in screening, elimination of the temperature checking rule, addition of an easier requirement to make a sufficient number of no-touch thermometers available, addition of the need to identify close contacts in alignment with DOH guidance, and a mandate to screen any occupant in quarantine for symptoms regardless of vaccination status. (See section (2).)
Elimination of vaccination verification: All of the mandates regarding vaccination verification are eliminated, although it will still be necessary to check vaccination status to stay in compliance with the DOH quarantine requirements in specific situations.
Tips: Almost a year ago, agricultural employers saw many of their COVID-19 specific requirements go away, which left specific rules like these for TWH. If you have questions about this most recent change and its impacts, contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney or Vigilant safety professional. You can also learn more at L&I’s web page for rulemaking on temporary worker housing in agriculture.