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California employers should be ready to comply with the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of California’s emergency wildfire smoke regulation, which took effect Monday after being approved by the state’s Office of Administrative Law.
The regulation applies to workplaces in areas where the current air quality index is labeled 151 or greater for airborne particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or where employers should reasonably anticipate that employees could be exposed to wildfire smoke.
To comply with the regulation, affected employers must identify the likelihood of harmful exposures at the start of each shift by checking air quality indexes where workers are located and take steps to mitigate exposure by relocating workers to enclosed buildings or locations where the air quality index is 150 or lower. The regulation also requires employers in areas with air quality conditions above the threshold to offer all employees N95 masks, which filter out air particulates, for voluntarily use and provide training on the regulation, health effects of wildfire smoke and use and maintenance of respirators.
The emergency regulation is effective through Jan. 28, 2020, with two possible 90-day extensions. Cal/OSHA will hold an advisory committee meeting in late August as part of its process for establishing a permanent wildfire smoke regulation through the state’s rule-making process.
California is preparing for another potentially disastrous wildfire season, and the controls and personal protective equipment that employers may be required to provide has been hotly debated in recent months.