IR #2008-45
June 27, 2008

Dean Fryer
(415) 703-5050

Cal/OSHA issues workplace advisory for Northern California workers

SACRAMENTO -- The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH or Cal/OSHA) is advising employers and workers in Northern California to protect themselves from the smoke created by the many wildfires burning around the state if they are required to work outdoors.

“Employers and employees should follow the advice of the state Air Resources Board and local air quality management districts and avoid being outdoors to the extent they can.” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “If workers are required to be outdoors, strenuous activity should be minimized. 

People working outdoors, particularly in areas near fire activity, may want to wear disposable particulate respirators as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and local air districts suggest.  The acceptable types to use can often be found at hardware stores.  They have two straps and are designated as “N-95” or “P-100.”  However, it should be understood that they offer only limited protection, since they do not provide oxygen or filter out many of the toxins that are in smoke.  Work outdoors in smoke-affected areas should be minimized regardless of whether a respirator is being worn.

Smoke may be dense at times, especially in areas near the fires, and may persist in mountain valleys during evening and early morning hours. Air quality has been poor over a wide area of Northern California the last several days, according to the CARB.

Everyone in the state should also be on the alert for high temperatures.  If the weather suddenly turns hotter as it has twice already this summer, employers and workers should be sure that all the protections required by California’s Heat Illness Prevention Standard are being provided.  The presence of smoke will make people more vulnerable to the heat.

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