Protecting Workers Exposed to Smoke from Wildfires
Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases, and fine particles that can harm health. The greatest hazard comes from breathing fine particles, which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and other existing heart and lung conditions, and cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
To protect workers exposed to wildfire smoke, employers must consider taking the following measures as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Program under Title 8 section 3203 of the California Code of Regulations and as required under section 5141 (Control of Harmful Exposure to Employees):
- Engineering controls whenever feasible (for example, using a filtered ventilation system in indoor work areas)
- Administrative controls if practicable (for example, limiting the time that employees work outdoors)
- Providing employees with respiratory protective equipment, such as disposable filtering facepieces (dust masks).
- 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 approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
- Approved respiratory protective equipment is necessary for employees working in outdoor locations designated by local air quality management districts as "Unhealthy," "Very Unhealthy," or "Hazardous."
For instructions on using filtering facepieces, see "Using Disposable Respirators" in English and Spanish.
- Cal/OSHA Notice - Worker Health and Safety in Wildfire Regions (Print version)
- California Department of Public Health Notice - State Public Health Officer Urges Californians to Limit Exposure to Wildfire Smoke
- For more information on masks and N95 respirators, please visit the Food and Drug Administration page.
- For more information on the use of respirators by the general public for protection from wildfire smoke or ash, please visit the California Department of Public Health page.