Following two of the most devastating fire seasons in California’s history, Cal/OSHA has adopted an emergency regulation to protect workers from the effects of wildfire smoke. The regulation took effect July 29, and sets forth new requirements for employers.
Under the new requirements, if you’re an employer you must
- Monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) for particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) in regions where workers are located. One way to check the AQI in your specific region is with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Now tool. Just enter a ZIP code for the air quality reading for your workplace region. Be sure to check your area’s AQI throughout each day.
- Take steps to reduce exposure to smoke when the AQI for PM 2.5 is above 150. In this case, you should consider relocating employees to an enclosed building with filtered air. You should also make sure the air filters are clean, replace them if necessary, and check with an HVAC technician to make sure air conditioning units are working properly. You can also send them to a different location where the AQI for PM 2.5 is below 150.
- If you were unable to reduce PM 2.5 exposure below 150, provide respirators—rated N95 or above—for employees’ voluntary use,
- Provide training on the new regulation, health effects of wildfire smoke, and the safe use and maintenance of respirators.
Now is the time to act
As we know, wildfires are about as synonymous with California as earthquakes. And, we’re getting to the time of year where the major fires have erupted in the past few years. Stock up now on the appropriate respirators and take care of any needed maintenance for your indoor location. This way, you’ll be ready—and in compliance—when the new regulation goes into effect.
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.