Cal/OSHA Standards Board Approves Emergency Wildfire Regulation

On July 18, 2019, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board approved a rule for the emergency protection of workers exposed to wildfire smoke.  This standard applies to workplaces where the current Air Quality Index (AQI) of particulate matter reaches 151 or greater and where employers should reasonably anticipate that employees could be exposed to wildfire smoke.  The regulation will be in place for one year beginning in August.  The Standards Board will file the regulation with the Office of Administrative Law which has 10 working days to review and approve as a new standard enforced by Cal/OSHA.  Under the new regulation, employers must check the AQI during fire season for PM 2.5 in areas where workers are located; reduce employee exposure to wildfire smoke, i.e., move employees to an outdoor area where AQI for PM 2.5 is lower than 150 or relocate employees to an indoor work area with filtered air; if this is not feasible, voluntary use respirators are to be provided – such as model N95s, with training on the health effects of wildfire smoke and the safe use plus maintenance of respirators.

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