California is no stranger to wildfires but the state is experiencing fires that are unprecedented in size and scope. The destruction that has been caused to date is possibly the worst in the state's history. The smoke in many areas is extremely heavy and has the potential to cause health problems including possible workplace illness.
Employers are mandated by California Occupation Safety Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) to take special precautions to protect employees from the dangers of wildfire smoke. One of those protections includes the use of N95 masks that can protect employees from harm caused by smoke inhalation. The masks have the ability to filter out harmful particulate matter. Cal/OSHA has distribution information for those masks.
When employees must work outside in a wildfire affected area, employers are required to determine if the air quality is considered harmful or likely to cause injury or illness. Air quality information is available from local districts. When the quality is deemed harmful, employers are required to take certain measures to protect their employees, including modifications to schedules, surroundings and providing respiratory equipment.
Anyone in California who may have questions or concerns regarding workplace safety or who has suffered a workplace illness believed to have been a result of exposure to conditions created by the wildfires should speak with a workers' compensation attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can review the circumstances of the situation and assist the client with understanding his or her options under the law. No one should have to suffer needlessly in this extraordinary wildfire season.