On May 14, 2020, the Washington State Department of Health, in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, created new emergency COVID-19-related safety rules that farms must implement if they provide temporary farmworker housing. The rules went into effect on May 18, 2020.
The new rules impose five general requirements on Washington farms that provide temporary farmworker housing. Generally speaking, these farms must:
Businesses subject to the new emergency rules are permitted to request a temporary variance from compliance with these rules. To receive variance approval, a business must adopt measures that provide housing occupants with equivalent protections as those outlined in the rules.
It is presently unclear whether the state plans to inspect farmworker housing to ensure compliance with these new emergency rules. However, failure to submit a revised plan or to comply with the emergency rules could result in administrative action, including license suspension or fines. Thus, farms will want to consider immediately documenting all steps taken to comply with the safety rules to avoid penalties.