What is Cal/OSHA Assembly Bill 1124? The California Department of Industrial Relations’ Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) has adopted an emergency rule requiring employers to provide respiratory protection to all employees working outside for longer than one hour when the air quality index (AQI) reaches 151 or greater. The emergency regulation has gone into effect as of the end of July 2019.
Although there can be many hazardous chemicals and other constituents in wildfire smoke, one of the most significant pollutants for people who are not very close to the fire is “particulate matter,” the tiny particles suspended in the air. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, PM2.5 can be easily, and often unknowingly, inhaled—and due to the small particle size, it can travel deep into the respiratory tract, potentially irritating the lungs and being accompanied by persistent coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. These small particles can also enter the bloodstream from the lungs and have been associated with more serious long-term health problems such as reduced lung function, bronchitis, worsening of asthma, heart failure, and early death.
Although this regulation applies to California, employers in other states may choose to use this standard as a “best practice” and decide to help protect their employees similarly. Employers should follow the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134, or the Respiratory Protection standard in their state.
For information regarding where you can find AQI data, how 3M can help, and recommended respiratory protection, contact us.