Worker Safety and Health in Wildfire Regions

Firefighters fighting fires and cleaning up after a fire.

Updated 10/22/2020 - Maximizing the Supply of N-95 Respirators

Cal/OSHA has released guidance on Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators for Wildfire Smoke Events During Respirator Shortages to maximize the supply of N-95 respirators. This guidance will help maximize the supply of disposable filtering facepiece respirators, such as N95, during supply shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updated 11/09/2020 - List of Vendors who Report Available Supplies of N95 Disposable Respirators

To assist employers in identifying available supply, Cal/OSHA is maintaining a list of vendors who have represented they have at least 100,000 NIOSH-certified disposable N95 respirators in stock and available for delivery.

Obtaining Approval of Non-NIOSH Certified Respirators when N-95 Respirators are Unavailable

Cal/OSHA has released guidance for Obtaining Approval for Non-NIOSH Certified Respirators for Compliance with Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard for Wildfire Smoke (8 CCR Section 5141.1) When N95 or Equivalent NIOSH-Approved Respirators Are Unavailable. This guidance provides strategies for optimizing the availability of respirators for wildfire smoke events, including the use of certain non-NIOSH approved respirators for situations where the Air Quality Index for PM 2.5 is at or below 175.

Wildfire smoke and cleanup presents hazards that employers and workers in affected regions must understand. Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that can harm health. Hazards continue even after fires have been extinguished and cleanup work begins. Proper protective equipment and training is required for worker safety in wildfire regions.

Power outages can also present electrical and other hazards for workers. Proper installation and use of generators can prevent electrocution hazards. Workers must also be aware of the potential of electrocution or being injured by moving parts of machinery and other equipment when power is restored. Workers can also face health hazards from working without electricity in unventilated areas because ventilation systems are not working.

Cal/OSHA has an emergency regulation (section 5141.1) to protect employees exposed to wildfire smoke. The regulation requires the following:

  • Identification of harmful exposures
  • Communication
  • Training and instruction
  • Control of harmful exposures
  • Specific particulate sampling requirements if an employer opts to monitor employee exposure with a direct reading instrument

Cal/OSHA encourages employers and workers to review the following pages with information and resources on protecting workers exposed to smoke from wildfires and worker safety during cleanup:


November 2020