Cal/OSHA Issues Advisory on Protecting Workers from Wildfire Smoke

Cal/OSHA posted an advisory notice on 6 December that tells employers to take special precautions to protect workers from hazards from wildfire smoke in the southern part of the state. Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases, and fine particles that can harm health, with the most significant hazard coming from breathing fine particles, which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and other heart and lung conditions, and cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, the agency noted. Cal/OSHA has posted materials offering guidance for employers and workers on working safely in conditions with heavy smoke from the fires. Employers with operations exposed to wildfire smoke must consider taking appropriate measures as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Program under Title 8 section 3203 of the California Code of Regulations and as required under section 5141 (Control of Harmful Exposure to Employees), according to the agency. Those measures include:

  • Engineering controls whenever feasible (such as using a filtered ventilation system in indoor work areas)
  • Administrative controls if practicable (such as limiting the time employees work outdoors)
  • Providing respiratory protection, such as disposable filtering facepieces (dust masks), to workers.

The notice says approved respiratory protective equipment is necessary for employees working in outdoor locations designated by local air quality management districts as “Very Unhealthy,” “Unhealthy,” or “Hazardous.”

Occupational Health & Safety News, 11 December 2017 ; http://www.ohsonline.com