A high heat advisory for employers with outdoor workers in Central and Southern California has been issued by Cal/OSHA. With temperatures rising and more than 10 active wildfire incidents in California, Cal/OSHA is also advising employers that special precautions must be taken to protect workers from hazards from wildfire smoke and other possible concerns.
Cal/OSHA is concerned about workers being exposed to chemicals, gases, and fine particles that can potentially harm lung function, aggravate asthma and other respiratory functions.
Please see the Cal/OSHA Guidance for employers dealing with heavy smoke caused by the wildfires available on Cal/OSHA’s web page.
The Cal/OSHA guidelines review some of the measures employers can consider:
- 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 workers 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”.
- It takes more effort to breathe through a respirator and it can increase the risk of heat stress. Frequent breaks are advised. Workers feeling dizzy, faint or nauseated are advised to go to a clean area, remove the respirator and seek medical attention.
- Respirators should be discarded if they become difficult to breathe through or if the inside becomes dirty. A new respirator should be used each day.