On July 18, 2019, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards board adopted an emergency regulation to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke exposure. Employers, please be aware of your new responsibilities:
Check the Air Quality Index (AQI) for PM 2.5 in areas where workers are located (airnow.gov). If the PM2.5 is > 151, then employers must:
- Relocate employees to work indoors or to an outdoor location where the PM 2.5 level is 150 or lower
- Provide N95 respirators* to workers if it is not feasible to relocate them
- N95 use is considered voluntary (medical screening is not required)
- Training, however, IS required on the safe use and maintenance of respirators, as well as on the health effects of wildfire smoke and the new regulation
For a summary of the regulation and helpful resources, please see: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/wildfire/Worker-Protection-from-Wildfire-Smoke.html
Please note that this is an emergency regulation that will likely be replaced by a permanent regulation next summer. While the current regulation does not require medical clearance for wildfire exposure “voluntary” respirator use, there are certain personal health conditions (such as heart disease, asthma/other lung conditions) that may make N95 use more burdensome for some employees. You may wish to offer employees an optional screening so that those who have health concerns can address them with a healthcare provider.