July 5, 2018

Cal/OSHA Issues Advisory about Worker Safety in Wildfire Regions

Cal/OSHA issued an advisory recently to remind employers to take extra precautions to protect their workers from the dangers of wildfire smoke. Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that can cause health problems. The greatest hazard comes from breathing fine particles, which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and other existing heart and lung conditions, and cause coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Employers with operations exposed to wildfire smoke must consider taking appropriate measures as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Program under Title 8 section 3203 of the California Code of Regulations and as required under section 5141 (Control of Harmful Exposure to Employees).

Those measures include:

  • Utilizing engineering controls whenever feasible. For example, using a filtered ventilation system in indoor work areas.
  • Using administrative controls if practicable. For example, limiting the time that employees work outdoors.
  • Providing workers with respiratory protective equipment, such as disposable filtering facepieces (dust masks). Approved equipment is necessary for employees working in outdoor locations designated by local air quality management districts as “unhealthy,” “very unhealthy” or “hazardous.”

Guidance for employers and workers on working safely in conditions with heavy smoke caused by the wildfires is available on Cal/OSHA’s web page, including frequently asked questions about N95 masks for employers and workers.

For more information, contact Jason Resnick at (949) 885-2318.