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California bill adopted to protect workers from wildfire smoke

Posted at 11:24 PM, Jul 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-23 19:20:34-04

A new emergency regulation has been adopted to protect workers from potential wildfire smoke hazards.

This new rule would make employers provide respirators to their workers and protect them from bad air quality, for example when there’s smoke in the air from a fire.

At least one employer we talked with says he sees some difficulties with this new law.

The rule would require employers to monitor the air quality index during a wildfire. If it reaches a certain level, employers would be required to move workers to a different site or indoors, and provide respirators and training.

If passed, the California Department of Industrial Relations says the emergency regulation will be effective for one year and would apply to workers and businesses exposed to wildfire smoke when the air quality index is over 150, considered unhealthy.

Rick DeJong, co-owner of Slo Plastering Inc., says this could end up costing businesses more money through lost work, “it’s just something we’re going to have to pass to the consumer, and it’s just going to drive the cost up,” said DeJong.

For DeJong, this will apply to his plastering company, where workers are mostly outdoors but he says they already have safety measures in place for poor air quality.

The bill has been approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, or OSHA. It still has to be approved by the Office of Administration Law, which has 10 workdays to review and pass the rule as a new workplace safety standard.

If the bill is passed, it is expected to go into effect early August.