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Restaurants damaged as fires rage in Northern California

Cal/OSHA Enacts Emergency Regulation Concerning Wildfire Smoke

Aug. 2, 2019
Workplaces must protect workers against wildfire smoke exposure.

An emergency regulation set forth by state-run Cal/OSHA has been enacted to protect workers from the dangers of wildfires.

Employers are now required to take steps to identify and reduce exposure for workers exposed to wildfires.

The new regulation applies to workplaces where the current Air Quality Index (AQI) for airborne particulate matter (PM 2.5) is 151 or greater, and where employers should reasonably anticipate that employees could be suspectible.

Effective through January 28, 2020 with two possible 90-day extensions, a California employer not must take the following steps:

  • Identify harmful exposure to airborne particulate matter from wildfire smoke at the start of each shift and periodically thereafter by checking the AQI for PM 2.5 in regions 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 and
  • Training on the new regulation, the health effects of wildfire smoke, and the safe use and maintenance of respirators.     

Cal/OSHA will convene an advisory committee in Oakland on August 27 to establish a permanent regulation using the regular rulemaking process. Meeting details and documents are posted on the agency's website.

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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