In California, wildfire season is one of the most challenging times of the year. A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire that can burn in wildlands and rural areas. When wildfires burn near communities and become uncontrollable the outcome can be disastrous. If a wildfire occurs, it is important to provide your employees with information on how they can remain safe.
With many people now working from home, encourage your home-based employees to prepare their homes for emergencies as you would prepare your workplace for one.
During wildfire season, it's important to stay informed on where the fires are taking place. Both employers and employees should keep track of the fires so they are prepared in case there is an evacuation order issued. Below are a few ways to track fires:
- CAL FIRE Current Incidents
- University of California Cooperative Extension: Fire in California
California’s wildfire regulation
Wildfire smoke contains chemicals, gases, and fine particles. These can result is serious health risks, when breathed in. Following three devastating fire seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2018, Cal/OSHA adopted new emergency regulations to help you protect your employees from the dangers of wildfire smoke. In February, 2021, those regulations became permanent.
If you have employees working outdoors in an area affected by smoke, follow these requirements to help keep them safe:
- Monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) for particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5).
- If the AQI is above 150 for PM 2.5, consider suspending outdoor work or move employees to a less affected outdoor location. If employees must work outdoors when the AQI is above 150, provide respirators—rated N95 or above—for employees’ voluntary use.
- If the AQI is above 500 for PM2.5 at an outdoor worksite, then employees must wear approved respirators.
- Train employees on the hazards of wildfire smoke, how to check outdoor air quality, and Cal/OSHA’s requirements for protecting them from wildfire smoke.
Our webinar, Protection from Wildfire Smoke, can help you train your employees on the new regulation and how best to protect themselves.