Protecting Outdoor Workers from Wildfire Smoke

January 14, 2020

The 2019 wildfire season was not as active as 2018, however, there were still 46,706 recorded wildfires from January 1 to November 22, 2019 (National Interagency Fire Center), burning about 4.6 million acres.

As wildfires ravage California and other states throughout the US, they take a serious toll on our land and more importantly, our health. According to the CDC, exposure to wildfire smoke can cause chest pain and asthma attacks, with many people experiencing headaches, sore throats, runny nose, and fatigue, among other health concerns.

It’s recommended to stay indoors to protect yourself from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke, however, not everyone has an indoor job. Farm workers and construction workers are at an increased risk due to the nature of their outdoor employment.

In July 2019, Cal/OSHA issued an emergency regulation to protect workers from wildfire smoke. When the Air Quality Index for PM2.5 is 151 or greater due to wildfire smoke, employers must inform employees of the AQI for PM2.5 and the protective measures available to them. This includes modifications to the workplace if feasible, and changes to work procedures or schedules to reduce the amount of time working outdoors or exposed to unfiltered outdoor air. Employers must also provide proper respiratory protection equipment, such as disposable N95 respirators, for voluntary use.

Want to learn more about California’s New Emergency Wildfire Smoke Regulation? Join us on Friday, January 25th - Saturday, January 26th in Sacramento, CA for COEH Builds Bridges: Warehouses, Wildfires, and Workplace Injuries.