Cal/OSHA Standards Board Adopts New Emergency Regulation to Protect Outdoor Workers from Wildfire Smoke

Cal/OSHA Standards Board Adopts New Emergency Regulation to Protect Outdoor Workers from Wildfire Smoke

Employers must quickly adopt the new requirements in early August.

California's Department of Industrial Relations' Occupational Health & Safety Standards Board adopted an emergency regulation to protect workers from hazards associated with wildfire smoke. The regulation is expected to go into effect in early August.

The emergency regulation will be effective for one year and applies to workplaces where the current Air Quality Index (AQI) for airborne particulate matter is 151 or greater, and where employers should reasonably anticipate that employees could be exposed to wildfire smoke.

Under the new regulation, employers must take the following steps to protect workers, according to a news release:

  • Identify harmful exposure to airborne particulate matter from wildfire smoke before each shift and periodically thereafter by checking the AQI for PM 2.5 inregions where workers are located.
  • Reduce harmful exposure to wildfire smoke if feasible, for example, by relocating work to an enclosed building with filtered air or to an outdoor location where the AQI for PM 2.5 is 150 or lower.
  • If employers cannot reduce workers’ harmful exposure to wildfire smoke so that the AQI for PM 2.5 is 150 or lower, they must provide:
    • Respirators such as N95 masks to all employees for voluntary use.
    • Training on the new regulation, the health effects of wildfire smoke, and the safe use and maintenance of respirators.

The Standards Board has also requested that Cal/OSHA conduct a follow-up comprehensive review of the regulation with an advisory committee using the regular rule making process in order to adopt permanent regulations. The emergency regulation will remain in effect during that process. 

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