As wildfires become more common in California, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved emergency protections for outdoor workers exposed to wildfire smoke. As of July 29, 2019, employers with workplaces where the regulation applies are expected to comply with the requirements when needed.
Who Must Comply
Employers with workplaces and operations must comply with the full standard when both of the following conditions apply:
- The current AQI for PM2.5 is 151 or greater, regardless of the AQI for other pollutants, and
- The employer should reasonably anticipate that employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke.
Workplaces in enclosed buildings or structures with filtered air, employees in vehicles, employees that are exposed to unhealthy air for no more than one hour and wildland firefighters are exempt.
What Employers Need to Do
For worksites covered by the emergency regulation, employers must –
- Determine employee exposure to PM2.5 before each shift and periodically thereafter, as needed.
- Implement a system for communicating wildfire smoke hazards in a form readily understandable by all affected employees.
- Provide effective training that includes at least the information contained in Appendix B.
- Reduce workers’ exposure to wildfire smoke in the following ways:
- Providing an enclosed location with filtered air;
- Relocating to another outdoor location that has lower current AQI for PM2.5, changing work schedules, reducing work intensity, or providing more rest periods;
- With respiratory protective equipment* if employers cannot reduce workers’ exposure to PM2.5 to a current AQI of 150 or lower.
* Employers are required to provide NIOSH-Approved N-95 respirators for employees’ voluntary use where AQI is at or above 151. Where AQI exceeds 500, respirator use is mandatory, including all associated requirements such as fit testing.
Where to Find Your Current Air Quality Index (AQI) for PM2.5
U.S. EPA AirNow – https://www.airnow.gov/
U.S. Forest Service Wildland Air Quality Response Program – https://tools.airfire.org/monitoring/
Local air quality management district – https://ww3.arb.ca.gov/capcoa/dismap.htm
To sign up for AQI notifications – http://www.enviroflash.info/
Resources: §5141.1 – https://www.dir.ca.gov/title8/5141_1.html
Appendix B – https://www.dir.ca.gov/title8/5141_1b.html
Please contact your InterWest Broker at (800) 444-4134 for additional assistance and guidance with this regulation.