As seasonal wildfires continue to blaze throughout the West Coast of the United States, Oregon OSHA (in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority) has issued a series of temporary rules to protect workers from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke. These rules cover situations where employers are required to provide hazard training, make respirators available to employees, and enact engineering or administrative controls to reduce exposure.
How do the Oregon OSHA Wildfire Smoke Rules Compare with Cal/OSHA Regulations?
The new rules are similar to Cal/OSHA’s wildfire smoke regulations, with the notable difference of coming into effect at lower AQI levels. Under the Cal/OSHA regulations, employers would typically need to provide training about the hazards of wildfire smoke when AQI levels exceed 151 (or an AQI of 69 under the new Washington rules.) This requirement drops to an AQI of 101 under the Oregon OSHA rule. These limits are the same for Part B of the new rule, requiring employers to make respirators available for voluntary employee use.
Should AQI levels rise to a limit of 201, Part C of the Oregon OSHA wildfire smoke rule requires the use of “feasible engineering or administrative controls to reduce exposures.” Engineering controls could take the form of providing enclosed buildings with adequate air filtration, and administrative controls may involve the relocation of work sites or altering schedules. This differs from the Cal/OSHA rule, where controls are required at an AQI of 151, with a preference toward the former control type.
When measuring air quality, you may need to convert particulate matter measurements into AQI levels. The following table shows how to convert the PM2.5 concentration (the smallest, and generally most harmful, form of particulate matter found in wildfire smoke) in air to the AQI for PM2.5:
At What Stage Do These New Rules Require the Use of Respirators?
If engineering or administrative controls are unable to reduce AQI levels below 201, the Oregon OSHA wildfire smoke rule requires the use of respirators. The rule places a focus on training and the use of seal checks, while allowing for the use of the previously FDA-approved KN-95s.
At an AQI of 501 or higher, the Oregon OSHA wildfire smoke rule requires the use of respirators with a complete Respiratory Protection Program (matching the California rule.) All sections of the rule apply to transit options, such as buses and light rail, “where the continual opening of the door makes it impossible to protect the indoor environment from the smoke outdoors.”
What Can You Do to Protect Workers and Comply with the New Rules?
If you’re looking for an all-in-one kit to help protect workers and meet all wildfire smoke requirements, check out the Aeroqual Wildfire Smoke Kit. Originally created to help employers comply with Cal/OSHA wildfire smoke regulations, this kit will also includes everything you need to comply with Oregon OSHA rules. If you have any further questions, please get in touch.
Drew, USA Business Development Manager, has spent the last ten years supporting complex and customised monitoring solutions for a variety of different environmental applications. In addition to speaking at remediation workshops across the United States, and live demonstrations of air monitoring technology, Drew has extensive experience helping clients adapt available solutions to achieve the air monitoring objectives of new applications.