As anticipated, OR-OSHA proposed permanent rules for exposure to wildfire smoke and excessive heat on Monday the 31st of January.
These rules will affect all SDAO member districts in some way and will have a fiscal impact. The severity of this impact will vary from district to district. So, it is important to share how these fiscal impacts will affect your district’s ability to provide service to the public. Coinciding with the proposal of these rules is the start of a 45-day comment period where employers and employees have the opportunity to share thoughts and concerns on the proposed rules.
This comment period provides the opportunity for you to give feedback via:
- Written comment to OSHA.firstname.lastname@example.org,
- Verbally via a voicemail message system at 1-833-604-0884, or
- You can attend and give testimony at one of the three public hearings they are holding for each of the rules
Heat Rule Hearings
Smoke Rule Hearings
The comment period for each rule closes at 5:00pm on March 18th. If you feel these rules are going to severely impact your ability to provide cost effective services to the public, we strongly encourage you to provide comment.
We will attempt to break down the main differences between these proposed rules and the temporary rules you worked under last summer (this is not a complete summary of the proposed rules). If you would like a more in-depth walkthrough of the rules, SDAO Risk Management Consultant Troy DeYoung will be presenting them at the SDAO pre-conference risk management session on Thursday, February 10th at 9am, and you are encouraged you to attend. Register for the conference now! (Free for SDAO members and SDIS agents.)
Wildfire Smoke Rule (text of proposed rule starts on page 35)
The proposed wildfire smoke rule is largely similar to the temporary rules you worked under last summer. Below are the main differences.
- Emergency operations (fire, EMS, utilities) directly involved in the protection of life or property only have to comply with the training section and control by voluntary use of respirators. It should be noted that this exemption is only for the duration of the emergency operation and once the emergency is done, you will no longer be exempt.
- Action levels for required respirator usage was increased. Under the temporary rule we had three action levels:
- AQI of 101 and above required the voluntary use of respirators,
- AQI of 201 and above required use of respirators following the wildfire respiratory protection program found in the appendix (i.e. no fit testing, medical evaluation or shaving of facial hair required) and
- AQI of 501 and above you had to have a full respiratory protection program.
The proposed rule changed the middle action level up to an AQI of 251 and above, which means less days your staff would be required to wear a respirator.
- As a result of the above change in action levels, they strengthened the language around voluntary respirator usage to ensure all employees have access to respirators when the AQI is above 101. Under this proposal, you must either directly distribute respirators to each exposed employee or make respirators available at each work location that does not restrict or hinder employee access to them.
Excessive Heat Rule (text of proposed rule starts on page 32)
Unlike the smoke rule, the heat rule is significantly different and more restrictive than the temporary standard you worked under last summer. Below are the key differences.
- Added exemptions
- Emergency operations (fire, EMS, utilities) directly involved in the protection of life or property are exempt from this rule for the duration of the emergency operation.
- Those staff doing rest or light work (defined in the rule) are exempt from the rule, but only when the heat index is under 90 degrees.
- Employees working from home are only required to comply with the training components of the rule.
- Shade and drinking water requirements are very similar to the emergency rule.
- High heat practices – when the heat index is above 90 degrees, you will have to follow similar procedures you had last year, but now you will have to implement a written work/rest schedule. You have three choices to choose from starting with least restrictive:
#1 - You can develop your own schedule utilizing at least the minimum of a 10-minute break every two hours when the heat index is at 90 or higher and a break of 15 minutes every hour when the heat index is at 100 or higher
- You then must take into consideration the following when developing your work/rest schedule:
- The effect of PPE
- The effect of the type of work clothing
- The relative humidity
- The intensity of work being performed
#2 – You can follow a modified version of the NIOSH work/rest schedule found in the appendix of the proposed rule. This schedule has you consider workload, the amount of sun, and relative humidity. Those factors are given an adjustment that you add or subtract to the ambient temperature and then you follow the work/rest schedule for that adjusted temperature.
#3 – you can adopt the simplified yet most restrictive schedule found below
|Heat index temperature||Rest break durations|
|90 or greater||10 minutes every two hours|
|95 or greater||20 minutes every hour|
|100 or greater||30 minutes every hour|
|105 or greater||40 minutes every hour|
- The section on acclimatization is also a lot more in depth then the emergency rules we operated under last year. This is another component where you have a choice on how you address this, and this is another required written component. Your two choices are:
#1 – develop your own acclimatization plan that protects your workers that takes the following under consideration:
- Acclimated and unacclimated workers
- The effect of clothing and PPE on the worker
- Personal and environmental risk factors for your workers
- Re-acclimatizing workers when weather changes or a worker is spending more than seven days away from the job
- The use and maintenance of auxiliary cooling systems
#2 – Follow the NIOSH acclimatization plan found in the appendix of the proposed rule.
- The last significant difference is the requirement to develop a written heat illness prevention plan. The rule lists out 7 items that must be included in this plan. These items largely just require you to document how you are going to comply with all of the components of the rule.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com. If you have concerns with these proposed rules, I encourage you to provide feedback directly to OR-OSHA via the public comment process: