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Cal/OSHA proposes emergency reg to protect workers from wildfire smoke

Advisory meeting to be held May 8

Posted May 7, 2019

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) will hold an advisory meeting May 8 seeking input on the development of an emergency rulemaking proposal addressing worker exposure to wildfire smoke. The Agency says the impact of wildfires has worsened in recent years and that inhalation of wildfire smoke may cause serious adverse health impacts.

The proposal applies to workplaces where the Air Quality Index (AQI) for particulate matter (PM) — a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air, such as dust, soot, or smoke — is greater than 150, regardless of the AQI for other pollutants, and a wildfire smoke advisory has been issued; or there is a realistic possibility that employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke.

Some workplaces and operations are exempt from the proposal:

  • Enclosed buildings or structures where the air is filtered by a mechanical ventilation system and employee exposure to outdoor or unfiltered air is effectively limited.
  • Enclosed vehicles where the air is filtered by a cabin air filter and employee exposure to outdoor or unfiltered air is effectively limited.
  • The employer demonstrates that the concentration of PM2.5 (fine inhalable particles) in the air does not exceed a concentration that corresponds to an AQI of 150.
  • Firefighters engaged in wildland firefighting.
  • Emergency response personnel performing lifesaving emergency rescue and evacuation.

Employers would be responsible for training employees on the health hazards of wildfire smoke, as well as other requirements covered in the proposal. They also would be required to employ engineering and administrative controls, and provide respiratory protective equipment if the controls did not eliminate employee exposure to PM2.5 corresponding to an AQI of 150 or less.

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