Bunk beds in Washington are still in.

The state Department of Labor and Industries issued emergency rules this week that allow the use of bunk beds in temporary farmworker housing under certain conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the new rules, which take effect Monday, May 18, growers may house workers with bunk beds under a “Group Shelter” clause. The clause allows up to 15 workers in one shelter, but that group must move around as a group, staying separate from others, including when they work and when they transport to and from work sites.

After farmworker advocates filed a lawsuit against the state asking for stricter regulations on farming and housing during the coronavirus pandemic, the state agency that regulates workplace safety drafted an early version of the rule that would have, in effect, banned the use of bunk beds, potentially cutting the industry’s housing capacity in half. Oregon health authorities did ban bunk beds under that state’s emergency rules, also instituted after advocates filed a lawsuit. 

The final Washington housing rule also mandates operators of worker housing file a coronavirus plan with the Department of Labor and Industries, identify and isolate suspected or confirmed positive cases and provide cloth face coverings, among other stipulations.

Here’s a link to the news release from the Washington State Department of Health: Farmworker-housing-emergency-rules-increase-worker-safety-during-pandemic

—by Ross Courtney

Good Fruit Grower coronavirus coverage