2018 will be remembered as one of the most devastating fire years in California’s history. Just recently, the Camp Fire in Paradise consumed moe than 153,000 acres. The Woosley Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties burned nearly 97,000 acres. Both fires started on November 8, displacing thousands of California residents.

In addition to the homes and other structures destroyed and the thousands of people evacuated, heavy, thick smoke filled the air—not just in the immediate fire zones, but for several miles away.

NIOSH-approved respirators, N95 and above, provide some protection against wildfire smoke

If there’s one thing we know about California is that fires are way too common, especially when the weather heats up. If your employees don’t have respiratory protection available to them right now, they will need when the next one in your area begins. The filtering facepiece respirator rated N95 or above is a good first step. These come at a fairly low cost and are generally available at hardware and drug stores for purchase. They’re also available online. Stock up now! Supplies are often depleted when a fire breaks out.

You’ll want respirators that have two straps that wrap around the head. Failing to use both straps does not provide proper protection. And, surgical masks don’t protect against wildfire smoke, either.

In addition to the respirator….

You can follow a few additional steps to help protect yourself and your employees to wildfire exposure. These include:

  • Limit or postpone outdoor work.
  • Reschedule any rigorous activity.
  • Turn off air conditioning units that draw in smoke polluted air from the outside.
  • If you’re not able to turn off the AC, make sure the system is equipped with high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters.
  • If the smoke is really bad in your area, consider sending your employees home for the day, especially those living long distances from your workplace.

Meanwhile, Cal/OSHA has some additional resources to help protect against the smoke:

If there’s one thing we know about California, wildfires happen and not just in the hot summer months. For those working outside or otherwise affected by the smoke, respiratory protection is a must.

For more information about current wildfires, visit the Cal Fire website.

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.


Copyright © 2018, State Compensation Insurance Fund