In response to hotter summers and increased wildfires, both Oregon and Washington have recently passed legislation aimed at keeping workers safe in these conditions. Oregon’s OSHA adopted its rules in May of 2022 and Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries adopted its rules in June of 2022.
In this article, you will find details about Oregon’s Wildfire Smoke Rules, which become effective on July 1, 2022. If you want to learn about other heat and wildfire rules, you can find articles here: Oregon Extreme Heat, Washington Extreme Heat, and Washington Wildfire Smoke.
When the air quality reaches AQI 101 or above, certain requirements kick in for employees who are or will be exposed to wildfire smoke. The rules do not apply to employees working at home or employees indoors or in vehicles with adequate ventilation systems, assuming windows and doors are opened only briefly.
When employees will be exposed to wildfire smoke and the AQI reaches 101 or above, employers must:
- Monitor employee exposure to wildfire smoke. The monitoring must be conducted at least at the start of each shift and as needed with changing conditions.
- Provide annual wildfire smoke training to all employees who may be exposed to AQI 101 or above. The training must include a variety of topics outlined in the rule. The employer must record who trained employees, which employees underwent training, and when the training occurred.
- Develop and implement a two-way communication system to communicate wildfire smoke information between supervisors and employees.
- Implement engineering and administrative controls to improve air quality, unless the employer can demonstrate that such controls are functionally impossible or would prevent the completion of work.
- Provide NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators to employees for voluntary use. The respirators must be provided and replaced at no cost to the employee and must be stored and maintained so they are safe for employees to use.
When air quality reaches even higher levels (AQI 251 or above), the employer must ensure that their employees wear NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators. Employers must develop a Wildfire Smoke Respiratory Protection Program and/or a Respiratory Protection Program when the use of respirators is required at these higher levels, as described in more detail in the rules.
To view the rules in full, click here: Oregon Wildfire Smoke Rules.
Now is the time to review your employee handbooks and policies to ensure compliance with these new rules. As always, we are happy to help. Feel free to reach out with questions or concerns.
This update is prepared for the general information of our clients and friends. It should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have questions about the issues raised here, please contact any of the attorneys in our Labor & Employment Practice Group, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.