On behalf of a diverse coalition of employers, Conn Maciel Carey submitted written comments and presented key comments at the Cal/OSH Standards Board’s May 21, 2020 meeting concerning the proposed permanent rule on protection from wildfire smoke. The coalition raised a host of concerns about the rule, from the potentially broad application of the rule to the inflexible respiratory protection and hierarchy of controls requirements.
As background, the Cal/OSH Standards Board adopted an emergency regulation regarding hazards associated with wildfire smoke last summer at the urging of various interest groups. The regulation took effect on a temporary emergency basis on July 29, 2019.
Recently, the Board published a request for written comments and notice of a public hearing on its proposal to revise the emergency standard and make it permanent. The Board explained:
Current regulations are not sufficiently specific as to what employers are required to do during wildfire events. This results in confusion on behalf of both employers and employees, leaving many employees unprotected…. As wildfire seasons worsen, the proposed regulation will avoid a potential increase in debilitating and sometimes life-threatening illnesses faced by workers exposed to wildfire smoke.
The Emergency Standard
The emergency standard (which is still in effect) requires California employers to take steps to protect employees who may be exposed to wildfire smoke. Importantly, the regulation covers “workplaces” rather than employers of a particular size or scope of service. It applies in workplaces where:
- The current Air Quality Index (AQI) for PM2.5 is 151 or greater, regardless of the AQI for other pollutants, and
- The employer should reasonably anticipate that employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke.
The regulation specifically exempts Continue reading