California: Emergency Wildfire Smoke Regulation Now in Effect for Outdoor Workers


All Employers with CA Employees Who Work Outdoors


July 29, 2019


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(888) 378-2456

California wildfire season is in full swing. Wildfires strongly impact local air quality, especially during the dry season.  Employers must follow Cal/OSHA’s emergency wildfire smoke regulations, which require employers to pay attention to the air quality index (AQI) and react appropriately.

Employers need to monitor the AQI at their worksites.  If the AQI for fine particulate matter exceeds a certain standard, and the employer “reasonably anticipates” that workers will be exposed to wildfire smoke, employers must then take steps to reduce exposure to the smoke.  Examples of steps to reduce smoke exposure include:

  • Relocating employees to enclosed buildings with filtered air; or
  • Relocating to a different outdoor location that has not exceeded the AQI for fine particulate matter.
  • If neither above option is feasible, employers must give workers the option to use an air respirator.
  • If the AQI exceeds 500, respirator use becomes mandatory and employers must follow stringent respiratory protection requirements, including bit testing and medical evaluations.

In addition to the above controls, employers must develop a system to communicate to employees about AQI levels.  The communications must include relaying information about available protective measures and reporting structure for employees to inform the employer of worsening air quality or adverse effects from smoke exposure.  Employers must provide training to employees on the new regulation, incorporating a number of monitoring and training requirements.

The emergency regulation primarily affects businesses with exposed or outdoor workspaces. Enclosed buildings, vehicles with air filter systems, firefighters engaged in firefighting, or employees who are exposed to smoke for an hour or less are exempt from the regulation.  However, employers with workers who intermittently spend time outside—such as warehouse workers or delivery people—should be attentive to the regulations, in case workers exceed the one-hour threshold. Similarly, business conducted inside enclosed buildings with doors that are frequently opened to air—such as restaurants—may be affected as well.

Action Items

  1. Review the emergency regulation here.
  2. Consult with legal counsel to determine if your business is covered by the emergency regulation.
  3. Develop training, information, and equipment for employees exposed to wildfire smoke.
  4. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2019 ManagEase

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