November 25, 2018 update: The Camp Fire in Butte County is now 100 percent contained at 153, 336 acres. The Woosley Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties is also 100 percent contained at just below 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 continues to fill the air—not just in the immediate fire zones, but for several miles away. Cal/OSHA has issued an advisory for all regions affected by wildfire smoke.
If your employees don’t have respiratory protection, they will need it for the next few days. 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.
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:
- Guidance for those working is heavy smoke areas.
- Information protecting outdoor workers.
- Information protecting indoor workers.
- Frequently asked questions about N95 masks.
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 the wildfires visit the Cal Fire website.