Update on the Emergency Wildfire Smoke Regulation

On July 29, 2019, Cal/OSHA’s emergency regulation to protect workers from wildfire smoke went into effect.  The Cal/OSHA Standards Board determined that the airborne smoke from wildfires poses a significant hazard to outdoor workers.  California Code of Regulations, Title 8, section 5141.1 applies to most outdoor workplaces where the current Air Quality Index (current AQI) for airborne particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or smaller (PM2.5) is 151 or greater, and where employers assume their employees could be exposed to wildfire smoke.  An AQI for PM2.5 of 150 or greater is considered “Unhealthy.”  Employers of outdoor workers are required to take specific steps under this regulation.

The emergency regulation requires the following:

  • Identification of harmful exposures
  • Communication of wildfire smoke hazards to all affected employees
  • Training and instruction of employees
  • Control of harmful exposures
  • Specific particulate sampling requirements if an employer opts to monitor employee exposure with a direct reading instrument

If employers cannot reduce workers’ exposure to wildfire smoke so that the AQI for PM2.5 is 150 or lower, they must provide:

  • Respirators, such as N95 masks, to all employees.
  • Training on the new regulation, the health effects of wildfire smoke, and the safe use and maintenance of respirators

Cal/OSHA published a News Release on August 20, 2020, reminding employers to protect workers from unhealthy air due to wildfire smoke.  The release can be found by clicking on the following link https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2020/2020-71.html

Currently Cal/OSHA is working with the Standards Board staff and DIR to complete the certificate of compliance to make the regulation permanent.  The Cal/OSHA advisory meeting has already scheduled a public advisory meeting for November 12, 2020, to discuss whether this emergency regulation should be made permanent.  Meeting details and documents concerning this regulation will be posted on the Cal/OSHA website.

Call us if you need more detailed information about any changes to the regulation or steps to comply with this standard.  The Cohen Group provides the needed employee training in English and Spanish.