Emergency agriculture housing rules updated to reflect current COVID-19 conditions

Submitted by Washington Department of Labor & Industries
TUMWATER — The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and the state Department of Health (DOH) filed updated emergency rules on May 7 to protect farmworkers living in temporary worker housing from COVID-19.
 
The updated rules, which took effect Sunday, May 9, detail the COVID-19 requirements and protections housing operators must meet to allow temporary workers to live onsite at agriculture worksites in the state.
 
The current emergency temporary worker housing rules were set to expire May 8. This is the third update to the rules since they were enacted in May 2020 to provide protections to workers during the pandemic.
 
The rules cover COVID-19 requirements for training, physical distancing, masking, cleaning and sanitation, and ventilation. They also spell out requirements for identifying and isolating symptomatic and confirmed cases, along with medical monitoring and reporting requirements involving workers in isolation.
 
Many of the requirements did not change from the previous version of the rules, including the requirement for workers living together in group shelters and using bunkbeds to be separated into groups of 15 or fewer.
 
The key updates to the rules concern medical monitoring and fully vaccinated workers living in group shelters.
 
Medical monitoring
Current rule: A licensed health care provider must make in-person visits twice a day to workers in isolation for COVID-19 exposure.
 
Updated rule: A licensed health care provider must visit isolated workers once a day in-person or through telemedicine. Both types of visits require a review of symptoms, temperature, and pulse oximetry. For virtual visits, employers must provide a working telephone. Interpreter services must be provided when needed.
 
Vaccinations
Current rule: Vaccinations were not addressed.
 
Updated rule: Multiple fully vaccinated workers living in group shelters may share common areas at the same time while maintaining physical distancing and mask use. Multiple fully vaccinated workers may be transported in the same vehicle while wearing appropriate face coverings.
 
Quarantine
Current rule: Workers living in a group shelter must either be quarantined or tested for COVID-19 if one member of the group develops symptoms. 
 
Updated rule: Clarifies that all workers, not just workers living in group shelters, must be quarantined and housed separately when exposed to COVID-19, unless fully vaccinated.
 
Permanent rules and resources
Along with the emergency rules, L&I and DOH continue to consider changes to the permanent rules for temporary worker housing during a major infectious disease outbreak.
 
Information is key to keeping workers and the public as safe as we make our way through the pandemic. L&I’s COVID-19 website, the DOH’s COVID-19 website and the state Coronavirus Response (COVID-19) include resources for employers and workers.
 

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