Wildfire season is underway in California and state officials are calling on employers to take steps to help mitigate the effects on human health that inevitably come with it.
In preparation for the worsening outdoor air quality, Cal/OSHA passed an emergency regulation in July designed to protect workers from harmful airborne particulate matter in wildfire smoke. The regulation will remain in effect until January 28, 2020.
The regulation applies to workplaces where the Air Quality Index (AQI) for fine airborne particulate matter (PM2.5) is 151 or greater and where the employer “should reasonably anticipate that employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke.”
Wildfire Smoke Regulation and Outdoor Employees
The measure applies to any workplace where workers are exposed to a PM2.5 AQI of greater than 151 for more than an hour. Work that takes place in an enclosed building or structure or an enclosed vehicle with a mechanical ventilation system and minimal intrusion of outdoor air is exempt. Employers are required to determine the PM2.5 AQI for outdoor work areas covered by the regulation before outdoor shifts begin and again periodically throughout the shift to determine the severity of ambient hazardous particulate matter.
AQI forecasts and current PM2.5 AQI levels can be obtained from any of the following sources:
- U.S. EPA AirNow website
- U.S. Forest Service Wildland Air Quality Response Program website
- California Air Resources Board website
- Local air pollution control district website
Employers are also required to communicate wildfire hazards, training and protective measure to affected employees and encourage employees to report worsening conditions or any adverse health symptoms.
Options for mitigating exposure to wildfire smoke include relocating work to an enclosed building with filtered air or to an outdoor location where PM2.5 AQI is 150 or lower or providing approved respiratory protective equipment and training on how to use it.
Not Sure How to Address the Cal/OSHA Emergency Regulation for Outdoor Workers?
For more information on how to comply with wildfire smoke regulations and protect your employees, give us a call or click on the link below. We can help you set up air quality index monitoring, analyze and interpret results and provide recommendations for reducing exposure in areas where workers may come into contact with wildfire smoke. We can also help you address other regulatory concerns and ensure that you are in compliance.