Wildfires continue to wreak havoc throughout California and beyond. In response to the latest round of wildfires, California and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have enacted an emergency regulation that’s meant to protect outdoor workers from potentially dangerous wildfire smoke. It’s not just firefighters who have to worry about breathing in various toxins and smoke. Gardeners, landscapers, construction workers, and anyone else who has to be outside as part of their job may need protection as well. Learn more about this new regulation and how it can keep your workers safe on the job.
Measuring Smoke Exposure Levels
Under the new requirements, all California employers with outdoor workers must measure smoke exposure levels before every shift. If possible, employers should relocate their workers to a safer work environment, such as an enclosed building with a filtered air system or an outdoor area where the air quality index is lower. Employers looking to measure their outdoor work environment should visit www.AirNow.gov to see what the exposure levels are in their area.
Wearing a Respirator Mask
If relocating into a safer work environment is not an option, employers must provide their staff with N95 respirators. All employees must wear a respirator mask when working outdoors if the air quality index is above 151. Levels 0 to 50 are considered good, 50 to 100 is considered moderate, 100 to 150 can be unhealthy for sensitive individuals including those suffering from asthma and other respiratory conditions, while anything above 151 is considered unhealthy.
The best respirator for wildfire smoke is the N95. It covers the worker’s nose and mouth, protecting them from hazardous substances in the air. As an employer with outdoor employees, disposable N95 respirators may be the best choice for your business, especially as the air quality index continues to fluctuate. If you see elevated AQI levels before a shift, you can quickly administer breathing masks to your team to keep them safe in the field.
The new regulation also requires that all staff be trained on this new law when it goes into effect on January 28, 2020. Everyone on your team should be aware of the risks of wildfire smoke and how to protect themselves. Keep disposable breathing masks on hand in case some of your employees are sensitive to air pollution. Use the AirNow.gov website to plan ahead before you and your employees head out for another day of work.
Your business must comply with this regulation by January 28, 2020; however, you may apply for two possible 90-day extensions if necessary. Keeping up with the latest employee safety laws in California is part of your job as an employer or manager. Wildfires can be a serious threat to the health and safety of your employees. Your team shouldn’t have to put themselves in harm’s way just to earn a living. Keep these new regulations in mind as we head into the new year.
For more information about choosing the best respirator for wildfire smoke, contact the professionals at PK Safety.