The State of California enacted an emergency regulation earlier in 2019 to protect employees from hazards related to wildfire smoke (https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2019/2019-66.pdf). The emergency regulation is in effect until January 28, 2020 with the possibility of two 90-day extensions. The regulation requires employers to take action when the Air Quality Index (AQI) for airborne particulate matter (PM 2.5) is 151 or greater (see Note below). Outdoor occupations such as agriculture, construction, landscaping and shops with open layouts are affected. Also, when an employee spends one hour or more outside over a course of a shift must comply with this regulation. High traffic areas, such as the showroom, where the front doors are opened frequently are also impacted.
Action Needed: At the beginning of the shift and periodically thereafter the employer must check the AQI for PM 2.5. One way to find out the PM 2.5 AQI data in real time in the outdoor space is to visit www.airnow.gov and use your zip code. There are other government websites providing this data on the web. The action taken by the employer may consist of engineering control or administrative control. Engineering control would be placing the employees in a building with an air filtration system that reduces the PM 2.5 below 150 and administrative control would be to place them in an area that has air with PM 2.5 below 150. The regulatory burden increases significantly when the PM 2.5 exceeds 500 in the form of advanced respirator training and management (See CA Title 8 Section 5144).
Respirators: Respirators must be provided to employees when both engineering and administrative controls are not feasible. The N95 disposable particulate type respirator to be used to protect employees are available for 50 cents at your local hardware store. Safe use, maintainence and product limitations noted on the box of respirators must be reviewed. Cal/OSHA regulations https://www.dir.ca.gov/title8/5144d.html (Appendix D) has a specific memo on usage of such respirators that must be reviewed as well.
Training: The employees must be trained on the new regulation including the health effects of wildfire smoke. Information at https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=smoke.index may be utilized to train employees and those at higher risk of health issues related to wildfire smoke. Training should include how employees can obtain air quality information and medical treatment, if necessary. Employers should establish a method for employees to inform them about worsening air quality and related adverse health effects.
Note: PM 2.5 refers to tiny particles or droplets in the air that are two- and one-half microns or less in width. Like inches, meters and miles, a micron is a unit of measurement for distance. There are about 25,000 microns in an inch. The widths of the larger particles in the PM 2.5 size range would be about thirty times smaller than that of a human hair.
DISCLAIMER: The contents of this newsletter are merely for informational purposes only and are not to be considered as professional advice. Employers must consult their lawyer for legal matters and EPA/OSHA consultants for matters related to Environmental, Health & Safety. This article was authored by Sam Celly of Celly Services, Inc. who has been helping automobile dealers comply with EPA and OSHA regulations since 1987. Sam received his BE (1984) and MS (1986) in Chemical Engineering, followed by a J.D. from Southwestern University School of Law (1997). Our newsletters can be accessed at www.epaoshablog.com. Your comments/questions are always welcome. Please send them to email@example.com.