Cal/OSHA Reminds Employers to Protect Workers from Wildfire Smoke
August 21, 2020
Yesterday, Cal/OSHA sent a press release reminding employers to protect their workers from the unhealthy air quality due to the wildfire smoke, and that California’s protection from wildfire smoke standard is still in effect. Employers have been directed to monitor the air quality index (AQI) for PM2.5. Should the AQI for PM2.5 exceed 151, Cal/OSHA listed the following steps that must be taken:

  • “Communication – Inform employees of the AQI for PM2.5 and the protective measures available to them.
  • Training and Instruction – Provide effective training and instruction to all employees on the information contained in section 5141.1 Appendix B.
  • Modifications – Implement modifications to the workplace, if feasible, to reduce exposure. Examples include providing enclosed structures or vehicles for employees to work in, where the air is filtered.
  • Changes – Implement practicable changes to work procedures or schedules. Examples include changing the location where employees work or reducing the amount of time they work outdoors or exposed to unfiltered outdoor air.
  • Respiratory protection – Provide proper respiratory protection equipment, such as disposable respirators, for voluntary use.
  • 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 as approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).”

Respirators are required when the AQI for PM2.5 exceeds 500. California’s respiratory standard also requires employers to implement a respiratory protection program for employees.

Due to the respirator shortage brought on by COVID-19, CalOES and the California Department of Food and Agriculture are working collectively to procure approximately one million N-95 masks for farmworkers that County Agricultural Commissioners in affected counties will distribute.

For AQI monitoring resources, you can visit the following websites:
·       U.S. EPA AirNow

The press release can be found here. For any questions, please reach out to Louie Brown at

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