Oregon OSHA addresses worker concerns about smoke from wildfires

Emphasizes importance of proper respirator use – even when used voluntarily

Posted September 8, 2017

In response to concerns about the potential impact of smoke on workers and workplaces, Oregon OSHA published tips, information, links, and contacts on topics relating to wildfires.

Wildfire topics include:

  • Indoor air quality concerns,
  • Respirators and filtering facepieces (dust masks),
  • Wildland firefighter safety, and
  • Heat stress.

Voluntary respirator use

Oregon OSHA stresses the importance of using respirators properly, even if they are used voluntarily. It is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate workplace hazards, including respiratory hazards. If the employer determines that a respiratory hazard does not exist, then voluntary respiratory protection may be used if the employer allows it. This is true even when exposures are below the exposure limit.

However, improper respirator use can present additional hazards to workers. If employers provide respirators for workers’ voluntary use, or if workers provide their own respirators, Oregon OSHA requires employers to medically evaluate whether workers are able to wear respirators. Employers must also provide workers information about the limitations and proper care of the respirators.

Note that Oregon OSHA does not require medical evaluations for filtering facepieces when they are used on a voluntary basis. Filtering facepieces that are not certified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are not tested for filtration effectiveness. They may not offer a consistent level of protection from particles in the air. These “comfort masks” typically have only one head strap and are not marked to indicate NIOSH approval.

Respiratory Protection: Breathing Safely - DVD Training ProgramJ. J. Keller's Respiratory Protection: Breathing Safely - DVD Training Program helps you satisfy OSHA's respiratory protection training requirements.


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