As wildfires in Northern California cause harmful air quality, Cal/OSHA is reminding employers that California’s protection from wildfire smoke standard requires them to take steps to protect their workers from unhealthy air due to wildfire smoke. We encourage you to check out the training videos created by Cal/OSHA regarding smoke protection and the use of N95 respirators.
Here are some steps outlined by Cal/OSHA that employers should take if wildfires might affect a worksite:
- Monitor the air quality index for PM2.5 before and throughout the work shift. Websites like the U.S. EPA’s AirNow or local air quality management district can help. Employers can also use their own instruments to measure PM2.5 at a worksite under Cal/OSHA’s requirements.
- Provide proper respiratory protection like N95 respirators for voluntary use if work cannot be moved to a location where the air is not harmful. Operations may need to be halted if this is not possible.
- Train workers on the health effects of wildfire smoke, such has reduced lung function, worsening asthma, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
If the AQI for PM2.5 is 151 or greater, employers must take urgent steps to protect employees. Click here to read the full list of required steps in the news release from the California Department of Industrial Relations.
If you have any questions around protecting your workers from unsafe conditions, reach out to your MMA representative or check out the following resources:
- Cal/OSHA’s web page
- FAQs about N95 masks
- Cal/OSHAs training academy (free resources in English and Spanish)
Many regulations place the responsibility for employee safety on the employer. Marsh & McLennan Insurance Agency LLC (“MMA”) assists employers with evaluating workplace safety exposures, but this does not change the requirements for employers to protect employees. Surveys, evaluations, and other loss prevention services performed by MMA may not reveal every hazard, exposure and/or violation of safety practices. Written inspection reports, findings and recommendations by MMA are not a guaranty or assurance the employer’s workplace, operations, machinery, appliances or equipment are safe or in compliance with applicable regulations.
The Risk & Loss Advisors team at MMA provides consultative services to help our clients reduce their total cost of risk. Contact your Risk Consultant or Client Service Team for assistance. Any statements concerning legal matters are based solely on our experience as Risk & Loss Advisors and are not to be relied upon as legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors.