AS WILDFIRES continue raging throughout California, Cal/OSHA has issued a reminder to employers that they are required to protect their outdoor workers from smoke if the Air Quality Index exceeds 150. Cal/OSHA has extended an emergency regulation it put in place in August 2019 through January 2021 as it works on a permanent regulation on wildfire smoke protection for outdoor workers in the state.
For the safety of your workers and to comply with the regulation, it’s important that you follow the regs and know when you will need to take action to protect them from outdoor smoke.
The regulation applies when the AQI for airborne particulate matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or smaller is 151 or greater in an area where employees are working outdoors. Here are the details:
Employers must monitor the AQI for PM2.5. You can monitor the index using the following websites:
- U.S. EPA AirNow
- U.S. Forest Service Wildland Air Quality Response Program
- California Air Resources Board
- Local air pollution control district websites or local air quality management district websites.
Training and instruction
Employers with outdoor workers need train their workers in:
- The health effects of wildfire smoke.
- Their right to obtain medical treatment without fear of reprisal.
- How they can obtain the current AQI for PM2.5.
- Actions they must take if the AQI exceeds 150 PM 2.5
Employers must implement a system for communicating wildfire smoke hazards to all affected employees, as well as a system for employees to inform the employer of smoke hazards.
If you have outside employees who may have to work in smoky conditions, you should stockpile a two-week supply of N-95 masks for all of them if you are unable to implement other controls to reduce their exposure.
Cal/OSHA is in the process of making the emergency rules permanent and has sent them out for public comment. We will continue monitoring the agency’s progress on the rules and update you when they have been completed.