While emergency responders and outdoor workers are exposed the most when it comes to wildfire smoke, indoor workers still could be at risk if smoke enters the environment.
Dust masks are a solution that would help protect employees whose exposure does not meet occupational exposure limits, according to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
The agency suggests two-strap masks, or respirators by definition, labeled as N95 or N100, which filter out smoke particles in the air. However, they will not provide protection against the gases or vapors found in smoke. If it is determined that voluntary use of personal protective equipment is the best, compliant option, employers are not required to provide a medical evaluation or fit- testing for voluntary users of dust masks. However, the department requires employers to provide a free copy of the advisory information sheet found in WAC 296-842-11005 after determining voluntary use is a safe option.
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries provides the following suggestions for dust mask selection:
- Choose a dust mask that has the word “NIOSH” and/or “N95” or “N100” printed on it. These dust masks will have two straps that go
around your head.
- Choose a size that will fit snug over your nose and under your chin to create a good seal to your face.
- Don’t choose a one-strap dust mask or surgical mask that hooks around your ears; these won’t protect you against
the fine particles in smoke.
- Don’t use wet or dry bandanas or towels or tissue held over the mouth
and nose. They won’t protect your lungs from wildfire smoke.
In addition, the agency recommends five tips to make sure workers are using dust masks properly. Click through the slideshow to view the suggestions.