California Sets Wildfire Smoke Rule

Len Wilcox California Corner, Regulation


A new regulation from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) will affect citrus field work during wildfire season.

The Cal/OSHA Standards Board has approved an emergency regulation designed to protect workers exposed to wildfire smoke. The emergency regulation will be in effect for one year and will expire on July 29, 2020. The agency is working to develop a permanent standard before the emergency standard expires.

The standard applies to workplaces where employees could be expected to be exposed to wildfire smoke and when the air quality index (AQI) of particulate matter (PM) reaches 151 or greater. An exemption is made for work locations inside enclosed buildings with filtered air. Included in the exemptions are other locations where exposure is controlled, such as inside the enclosed cab of a vehicle with filtered air.

For non-exempted worksites, the employer must identify harmful PM from wildfire smoke before each shift and periodically thereafter by checking the AQI. The employer will need to reduce the exposure by relocating employees into an enclosed building with filtered air or to another outdoor location where the AQI for PM 2.5 is less than 150.

If the workers cannot be moved out of the affected area, the employer must provide the appropriate respirators, such as N95 masks, for voluntary use. Employees must also be trained on the new regulations, the health effects of wildfire smoke, and the safe use and maintenance of respirators.

Read the complete text of the new Cal/OSHA wildfire smoke regulation here or call your regional Cal/OSHA consultation office.

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About the Author

Len Wilcox

Correspondent at Large for Citrus Industry Magazine and AgNet West