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New Law Protects Workers from Smoke Inhalation

New Law Protects Workers from Smoke Inhalation

An emergency regulation requires employers to ensure safe workplaces 

New Law Protects Workers from Smoke InhalationIn the past year, California has seen its share of devastating wildfires.  These fires seem to be continuing at a record pace across the state, leading to dangerous conditions for those who fight the fires as well as those who live and work near the wildfires.  In response to the dangers posed by these fires, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration — Cal/OSHA — has released an emergency regulation for workers exposed to wildfire smoke.

Cal/OSHA is the state agency that is tasked with protecting and improving the health and safety of workers in California.  It sets and enforces standards, provides outreach, education and assistance, and issues permits, licenses, certifications and approvals.  According to a California employment lawyer, employers who violation Cal/OSHA’s safety standards may be penalized.

Recently, Cal/OSHA issued an emergency regulation designed to protect employees from wildfire smoke.  This rule applies to both outdoor workers and those who work in semi-indoor places, such as day laborers, construction workers, agricultural workers, and landscapers.  When the 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, then these requirements are in effect.

Employers who are covered by this regulation must protect their employees from wildfire smoke in the following ways:

  • Identify harmful exposure to airborne particulate matter from wildfire smoke at the start of each shift and periodically thereafter by checking the AQI for PM 2.5 wherever workers are located.
  • Reduce harmful exposure to wildfire smoke when possible. This may be done by relocating work to an enclosed building with filtered air or to an outdoor location with appropriate air quality.
  • If employers cannot reduce harmful exposure to wildfire smoke, then they must provide respirators such as N95 masks for all employees (voluntary use) and training on the new regulation, the health effects of wildfire smoke, and the safe use and maintenance of respirators.

This regulations will be in effect through January 28, 2020, and may be extended for up to 180 days.

These types of regulations are important because they help to keep workers safe on the job, and protect from long-term damage from the effects of things like smoke.  If your employer does not follow these regulations — or other safety rules — then you may want to talk to a California employment lawyer to determine what your options are to protect yourself as well as other employees on the job site with you.

At PLBSH, we have more than 40 years of combined experience helping workers throughout California as they seek justice.  We represent clients on a range of matters, from workers’ compensation to wage and hour to harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation.  To learn more about how we can help you, contact our firm today at (800) 435-7542 or to schedule a consultation with a California employment lawyer.

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