OR-OSHA’s Smoke Rules take effect July 1 and apply to apply to employers whose employees are or will be exposed to unhealthy or hazardous levels of wildfire smoke. See Key Requirements from OR-OSHA here.Overview
The smoke rule requirements are based on the Air Quality Index (AQI) which was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an indicator of overall air quality for the general population. Requirements begin to take effect at AQI of 101 or higher for exposures to particulate matter with a diameter in micrometers of 2.5 or less, commonly referred to as PM2.5.
These standards do not apply to employees working in enclosed buildings, structures, and vehicles in which air is filtered by a mechanical ventilation system, and when exterior openings are kept closed except when it is necessary to briefly open doors to enter or exit, employers that have predetermined to suspend operations to prevent employee exposure to wildfire smoke, and employees working at home. Partial exemption is provided for wildland firefighting and associated support activities; evacuation, rescue, utilities, communications, and medical operations directly involved in or aiding emergency operations or firefighting operations; and work activities involving only intermittent employee exposure of less than 15 minutes in an hour, for a total exposure of less than one hour in a single 24-hour period.
Requirement: Assess and monitor air quality at each work location where employees are exposed. Employers must assess work locations when they are affected by wildfire smoke to determine air quality conditions by checking the current average AQI value for PM2.5.
Requirement: Provide and document employee training. Employers that are not partially exempt from the standard must verify supervisor and employee training by preparing a written or electronic record that includes at least the name or identification number of each employee trained, the dates of the trainings, and the name of the people who conducted the training. The most recent annual training record for each employee must be maintained for one year.
Requirement: Implement two-way communication system. The system is intended to communicate wildfire smoke information between supervisors and employees and may include use of cell phones, two-way radios, in-person communication and any other viable means to transmit information reliably and effectively.
Requirement: Implement engineering and administrative controls. Used to reduce employee exposure to smoke, only controls that are functionally possible and would not prevent the completion of work must be used.
Requirement: Provide NIOSH-approved filtering face piece respirators for voluntary use to employees. NIOSH-approved filtering face piece respirators include: N95, N99, N100, R95, R99, R100, P95, P99, and P100. NIOSH-approved filtering face piece respirators do not include any “KN” designations, such as KN95s.
When the AQI value exceeds 250, employers must provide NIOSH-approved filtering face piece respirators for mandatory use to employees.
When the AQI exceed 500, employers must provide NIOSH-approved respirators for mandatory use to employees.
Finding the AQI
There are a few ways to find the Air Quality Index measurement
- Oregon DEQ website: https://oraqi.deq.state.or.us/home/map
- U.S. EPA AirNow Fire and Smoke Map website: https://fire.airnow.gov/
- Download the free OregonAir app from DEQ or the “EPA AIRNow” app from the U.S. EPA