Oregon offers employer resources to address emergency wildfire smoke rule

Oregon OSHA’s new emergency rule applies to employers whose employees are – or will be – exposed to wildfire smoke where the ambient fine particulate (also known as PM2.5) air concentration is at or above an Air Quality Index (AQI) 101. Air Quality Index is divided into six categories, including levels between 101-150 identified with the color code orange – identified as unhealthy for sensitive groups – and color code red with AQI between 151-200 and identified as air that is unhealthy for others.

A few days after the rule was enacted, Oregon OSHA began working with partners to distribute hundreds of thousands of particulate respirators to employers. New obligations under the rule include requirements for employers to have available and offer particulate masks to employees at AQI greater than or equal to 101, and mandate the wearing of particulate masks if employees are working in equal to or greater than 151 AQI conditions. Learn more about distribution of masks.

As reported in a previous blog, Oregon OSHA is involved in creating permanent occupational standards for both heat and wildfire smoke. Due to immediate concerns about worker heat and smoke exposures while the permanent standard is developed, the agency developed temporary rules for both heat and wildfire smoke. The temporary smoke rule took effect August 9, and will remain in effect for 180 days. The rule requires employers to comply with specific training provisions by August 16 (yesterday). Learn more about the training requirements, and access a free course titled Wildfire Smoke Training Requirements designed to help employers meet some of the training requirements.

We recommend all affected employers access and review all details of the temporary rule for wildland smoke. Key provisions of the rule address:

  • Exemptions, definitions and scope
  • Information and training
  • System to communicate smoke hazards to employees
  • Exposure controls (including when filtering facepieces must be both offered and required to be worn).

Helpful resources:

Oregon OSHA Temporary Rule on Protection from Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire Smoke Online Course

Oregon OSHA Topic Page on Wildfires (publications, training, rules)

Oregon and Workplace Blog: Oregon adopts emergency smoke and heat workplace rules