Cal/OSHA issued a News Release reminding employers to make preparations to protect workers from unhealthy air due to wildfire smoke. Per the Cal/OSHA Wildfire Smoke Protection Regulation, employers must act to protect outdoor employees from wildfire smoke when the current AQI is 151 or greater. Due to the large number of wildfires currently burning throughout California, air quality conditions in many areas are at or above the 151 AQI threshold. You can read California’s wildfire smoke regulation here.
Additionally, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has issued a health caution alert for San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Kern Counties due to gusty conditions and continuing wildfires. The health caution will remain in effect until the fires are extinguished or until smoke is no longer affecting the Valley.
Employers with outdoor employees are advised to check the AQI in their area regularly and implement the following protection measures.
Check AQI forecasts and current AQI for PM2.5 from the following sources:
- California Air Resources Board
- Local air pollution control district
- Local air quality management district
Required Protection Measures:
- Employers must provide respirators* for employee use on a voluntary basis when the current AQI for PM2.5 is equal to or greater than 150 but less than 500. The employer must require employees to use respirators when the current AQI for PM2.5 is greater than 500. See the following webpages and the “Resources” section below for further information on providing respirators to employees.
- N95 Mask Commonly Asked Questions
- “Using Disposable Respirators”(in English and Spanish)
- *To filter out fine particles, respirators must be labeled N-95, N-99, N-100, R-95, P-95, P-99, or P-100, and must be labeled as approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Full facepiece respirators provide at least five times as much protection from fine particles as half facepiece respirators such as filtering facepiece respirators (dust masks).
- Implement a system for communicating wildfire smoke hazards in a form readily understandable by all affected employees, including provisions designed to encourage employees to inform the employer of wildfire smoke hazards without fear of reprisal.
- Train employees according to section 5141.1 Appendix B.
- Implement engineering controls, when feasible, to reduce employee exposure to PM2.5 to less than a current AQI of 151 (or as low as feasible if less than a current AQI of 151 cannot be achieved). Examples include providing enclosed structures or vehicles for employees to work in, where the air is filtered.
- Whenever engineering controls are not feasible or do not reduce employee exposures to PM2.5 to less than a current AQI of 151, implement changes to work procedures or schedules when practicable. Examples include changing the location where employees work or their work schedules.
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