CAL/OSHA Issues Advisory on Worker Safety in Wildfire Regions

Recent wildfires in Anaheim Hills and Northern California have attracted high attention to worker safety in wildfire regions. Note that smoke from wildfires contains particles that can cause serious health concerns, including but not limited to reduced lung function and asthma. It is important to take precautions to protect employees from hazards caused by wildfire smoke. Cal/OSHA has provided information and guidance for employers and employees on working safely in conditions with heavy smoke. Employers are required to take the following appropriate actions as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

  • Use a filtered ventilation system in indoor work areas.
  • Restrict employees to only work outdoor for a certain time limit.

  • Supply employees with proper respiratory protective equipments
    • Respirators must be labeled N-95, N-99, N-100, R-95, P-95, P-99, or P-100. In addition, it must be approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
    • Qualified respiratory protective equipment is required for employees working in outdoor locations identified as “Very Unhealthy”, “Unhealthy”, or “Hazardous”.

      • Employees are recommended to take frequent breaks since breathing through a respirator can increase the risk of heat stress.

      • Workers are also advised to migrate to a clean area, remove the respirator, and seek medical help if they begin to feel dizzy, or faint.

      • Respirators should be replaced if they become difficult to breathe through or if it becomes dirty.