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OR-OSHA Plans to Adopt a Wildfire Smoke Exposure Rule

On the evening of August 2nd OR-OSHA had a news release that they intend on adopting an emergency wildfire smoke rule. They plan on the rule being in effect starting next Monday the 9th of August with a delayed training date of August 16th. To help SDAO members better understand how this rule will impact your operations and how to comply with it, we plan on holding a virtual meeting this Friday to provide a summary of the rule and try to answer any questions you may have. No need to register for this meeting, just click on the link below at the time of the meeting.

Virtual Meeting - Summary and Q&A for Smoke Rule
Friday August 6th at 11:00 AM
Microsoft Teams meeting
Join on your computer or mobile app
Click here to join the meeting

You can find the text of the rule at Final Language for Temporary Rule on Protection from Wildfire Smoke ( Also OR-OSHA released the following summary of the rule.

Protection from wildfire smoke

The wildfire smoke rule applies to employers whose employees are – or will be – exposed to wildfire smoke where the ambient air concentration for fine particulate matter (also known as PM2.5) is at or above an Air Quality Index (AQI) 101, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Sensitive groups include people with lung and heart problems; children younger than 18 and adults older than 65; pregnant women; and people with diabetes.

Workplaces and operations that are exempt from the rule include enclosed buildings in which the air is filtered by a mechanical ventilation system and enclosed vehicles in which the air is filtered by a cabin air filter. In both cases, doors and windows must be closed, except when it is necessary to enter or leave.

Information and training

  • Beginning Aug. 16, 2021, employers must ensure workers who may be exposed to AQI 101 have been trained in a manner and language they understand.
  • Such training must include the following topics:
    - The potential health effects of wildfire smoke, including increased risk of health effects to sensitive groups
    - The symptoms of exposure, including burning sensations in the eyes; runny nose, sore throat, cough, and difficulty breathing; and fatigue, headache, and chest pain
    - How employees can get the current and forecasted AQI level
    - How to operate and interpret any air quality monitoring device provided by the employer
    - The employer’s methods to protect workers from wildfire smoke
    - Emergency response procedures
    - The employee’s right to report health issues and obtain medical treatment without fear of retaliation
    - Two-way communication system for wildfire smoke hazards
    - The importance, limitations, and benefits of using filtering facepiece respirators when provided by the employer, and how to properly put them on

Communication system

  • Before workers are exposed to an AQI 101, employers must develop and implement a system to communicate wildfire smoke hazards, including:
    - Notifying employees when the worksite’s ambient air concentration is at or above AQI 101
    - Giving notification when ambient air concentration is at or above an AQI 201, which involves very unhealthy  air quality with the risk of health effects increased for everyone.
    - Notifying employees when the ambient air concentration is at or above  an AQI 500.
    - Notifying employees when the ambient air concentration drops below levels requiring protective measures.

Exposure controls

  • Whenever feasible, employers must use engineering or administrative controls to reduce employee exposure to less than AQI 201. Engineering controls include enclosed buildings or vehicles where the air can be adequately filtered. Administrative controls include relocating work to another outdoor location with better air quality or changing work schedules.
  • Whenever employee exposure exceeds AQI 201, even after the use of engineering or administrative controls – or both – employers must ensure workers wear filtering facepiece respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). Such respirators include what is commonly known as an N95.
  • Whenever employee exposure exceeds an AQI 101, employers must maintain an adequate supply of NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators that effectively protect wearers. Such respirators must be provided at no cost and be readily available for voluntary use to all exposed workers at their request.
  • For the 2021 season, KN95s previously approved under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization can be substituted for NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators for exposures below an AQI 499.  For exposures at AQI 500 and above,  NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators must be used. 

Meanwhile, Oregon OSHA is coordinating with several partners on the distribution of respirators. That coordination includes working with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Home Builders Association, the Associated General Contractors Oregon Columbia Chapter, and Hoffman Construction.