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Wild Fires and the Construction Trade

- November 5, 2019 by Jacki Mortenson (View all posts by Jacki)

Quite a few of my construction trades received an urgent message from CALPASC concerning the new emergency order that Cal/OSHA signed on 7.18.19.   The “Emergency Order” became effective on July 29, 2019 compliments of the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s emergency regulation…which is drafted to protect outdoor workers from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke.  The emergency order adds a new section to Title 8 Division 1, Chapter 4;  §5141 which is now §5141.1 Protection from Wildfire Smoke.

  • Under the new regulation, employers must take steps to protect workers who could be exposed to wildfire smoke. Employers will have to monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) at their worksites for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5). If the AQI for PM 2.5 is greater than 150 and the employer “reasonably anticipates” that employees will be exposed to wildfire smoke, then employers must reduce exposure to the smoke.
  • Depending on the worksite and conditions, employers may reduce exposure to workers by relocating them to enclosed buildings with filtered air (called the engineering control method) or to another outdoor location where the AQI for PM 2.5 is 150 or lower (called the administrative control method). If it is not feasible to reduce smoke exposure using engineering or administrative control methods, then employers must give employees the option to use air respirators, such as N95s.
  • Employers must establish a system to communicate to employees about AQI (Air Quality Index) levels, including relaying information about available protective measures, and encourage employees to inform them of worsening air quality and any adverse symptoms resulting from smoke exposure. Employers must also provide training on the new regulation, including information about the effects of wildfire smoke, obtaining medical treatment, how to obtain AQI information, methods to protect employees from wildfire smoke, and how to safely use respirators. Read the full text of the regulation for monitoring and training requirements.

If your a California employer that need to comply with this order, you can contact your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant to help you with compliance.