California has experienced devastating wildfires in recent years—tragedies that have included loss of life, land, and homes.
Many California employers have also been impacted by recent wildfires. Even if not directly affected, if there is a fire in the region, employees may be exposed to unhealthy air quality from wildfire smoke.
The California Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Standards Board recently approved an emergency regulation to protect workers from hazards related to wildfire smoke. The regulatory standard went into effect on July 29, 2019 and will be effective for one year. At the same time, the Board will work toward adopting a permanent regulatory standard.
The protections are triggered when the current Air Quality Index (AQI) for airborne PM2.5 (particulate matter) is 151 or greater and when employers should reasonably anticipate that employees could be exposed to wildfire smoke.
Employers must take the following steps to protect workers who may be exposed to wildfire smoke:
The following workplaces and operations are exempt from the wildfire smoke protection standard:
Additional information can be found on Cal/OSHA’s Worker Safety and Health in Wildlife Regions page. For information on handling the aftermath of an emergency event, please see our previous newsletter article, Handling Employee Issues after a Devastating Event.