August 1, 2019

Emergency Wildfire Smoke Protection Regulation Now In Effect

On Monday July 29, 2019, the Office of Administrative Law approved the Protection from Wildfire Smoke regulation, requiring California employers to protect their employees from possible harm created by wildfire smoke.

Adopted by the Cal/OSHA Standards Board on July 18, the emergency rule requires employers to monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the workplace and take steps to protect workers when the AQI reaches certain levels.

Requirements for Employers

The emergency rule will be in effect until the permanent rule is passed (likely one year) and applies to workplaces where the AQI for airborne particulate matter (PM) 2.5 is 151 or greater. If the current AQI for PM 2.5 exceeds 500, respirator use is required.

Employers must:

• Check the AQI for PM 2.5 before each shift to determine if it is at or above 150 AQI for PM2.5.

• Reduce harmful exposure to wildfire smoke if feasible—for example, by relocating work to an enclosed building with filtered air or an outdoor location where the AQI for PM 2.5 is 150 or lower.

• Provide respirators such as N95 masks to all employees for voluntary use.

• Provide training on the new regulation, including the health effects of wildfire smoke and the proper use and maintenance of respirators.

Cal/OSHA has also launched the process of adopting a permanent regulation to protect employees from being exposed to unhealthy levels of wildfire smoke. WG staff will remain an active participant in this process to ensure that the permanent regulation is feasible and not overly broad in scope.

A meeting has been set for August 27th in Oakland to allow stakeholders and the public to provide information and scientific data on employee exposure to wildfire smoke, control measures, feasibility, or costs.

Click here to view the Protection from Wildfire Smoke regulation approval.

For more information, contact Matthew Allen at (916) 446-1435.