Cal/OSHA Issues Advisory For Employers To Take Precautions To Protect Workers Exposed To Hazards Relating To Wildfires

Jackson Lewis P.C.
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A high heat advisory for employers with outdoor workers in Central and Southern California has been issued by Cal/OSHA. With temperatures rising and more than 10 active wildfire incidents in California, Cal/OSHA is also advising employers that special precautions must be taken to protect workers from hazards from wildfire smoke and other possible concerns.

Cal/OSHA is concerned about workers being exposed to chemicals, gases, and fine particles that can potentially harm lung function, aggravate asthma and other respiratory functions.

Please see the Cal/OSHA Guidance for employers dealing with heavy smoke caused by the wildfires available on Cal/OSHA’s web page.

The Cal/OSHA guidelines review some of the measures employers can consider:

  • Engineering controls whenever feasible (for example, using a filtered ventilation system in indoor work areas)
  • Administrative controls if practicable (for example, limiting the time that employees work outdoors)
  • Providing workers with respiratory protective equipment, such as disposable filtering facepieces (dust masks)
    • To filter out fine particles, respirators must be labeled N-95, N-99, N-100, R-95, P-95, P-99 or P-100, and must be labeled approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
    • Approved respiratory protective equipment is necessary for employees working in outdoor locations designated by local air quality management districts as “Unhealthy”, “Very Unhealthy” or “Hazardous”.
      • It takes more effort to breathe through a respirator and it can increase the risk of heat stress. Frequent breaks are advised. Workers feeling dizzy, faint or nauseated are advised to go to a clean area, remove the respirator and seek medical attention.
      • Respirators should be discarded if they become difficult to breathe through or if the inside becomes dirty. A new respirator should be used each day.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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