California Implements Regulations on Wildfire Smoke

 

By Karen F. Tynan © Ogletree Deakins August 8, 2019
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​On July 30, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced that its emergency regulation requiring employers to protect workers from hazards associated with wildfire smoke is now in effect.

At recent advisory committee hearings, employers (including those in the agriculture and construction industries) expressed concerns that the new regulations would be difficult to implement in 2019.

Despite potential difficulties in implementation, the emergency regulation, effective through Jan. 28, 2020, is now on the books as section 5141.1 under the General Industry Safety Orders. The emergency regulation may be extended twice for 90 days each time.

According to a press release from the California Department of Industrial Relations, "[t]he new regulation . . . applies to workplaces where the current Air Quality Index (AQI) for airborne particulate matter (PM 2.5) is 151 or greater, and where employers should reasonably anticipate that employees could be exposed to wildfire smoke."

California employers with outdoor workers may want to take note and begin compliance activities during this wildfire season.

The new regulation requires that employers develop methods for identifying harmful exposures and communicating the wildfire smoke hazards, give training to employees, and also, in certain unique circumstances, provide respiratory protective equipment.

Cal/OSHA will convene the next wildfire smoke advisory committee in Oakland on Aug. 27 "to establish a permanent regulation using the regular rulemaking process." Cal/OSHA will post details regarding the meeting on its website.

Employers may want to contact their trade groups or legal counsel to gather more information about the process and regulations.

Karen F. Tynan is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Sacramento, Calif. © 2019 Ogletree Deakins. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. 

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