By Tim Karcz, California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (JPIA) Senior Risk Manager

2018 was the most destructive fire season in California’s history. According to the National Interagency Coordination Center’s year-end statistical roundup, more than 1.8 million acres of California was burned by wildland fires.

An emergency regulation to protect workers from wildfire smoke hazards is in effect until January 28, 2020, and there will likely be two 90-day extensions before Cal/OSHA will move to make this a permanent regulation. The regulation was approved by California’s Office of Administrative Law on July 29, 2019 and can be found in California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5141.1.

The emergency regulation applies to workplaces where the current Air Quality Index (AQI) for airborne particulate matter (PM) is 151 or greater, and to areas where employers can reasonably anticipate that employees could be exposed to wildfire smoke.

Under the new regulation, employers must take the following steps to protect workers who may be exposed to wildfire smoke:

  • Identify harmful exposure to airborne particulate matter.
  • Reduce harmful exposure to wildfire smoke, if feasible, through work reduction or relocation, or,
  • If employers cannot reduce workers’ harmful exposure to wildfire smoke, they must provide:
    • Respirators, such as N95 masks, to all employees for voluntary use, and
    • Training on the new regulation, the health effects of wildfire smoke, and the safe use and maintenance of respirators. Complete training requirements and details can be found in Appendix B of the regulation.

The California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (JPIA) offers training on Respiratory Protection. Additionally, Authority members have access to a white paper written on wildfire risk management. This white paper provides recommendations and resources to aid in understanding and managing wildfire and post-wildfire-related risks, and includes information on coordinating resources, communicating with the community, and establishing and enforcing sound loss prevention and defensible space practices.

For more information, visit the Authority’s website.

Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 100 member cities and other governmental agencies.  Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive risk management training and loss control services.