Oregon OSHA Issues Temporary Rules Regarding Protection from Wildfire Smoke
Effective August 9, 2021 and running for a period of 180 days, certain Oregon employers must comply with temporary rules imposed by the Oregon Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) regarding wildfire smoke. The rules require employers to provide workers with training, develop a system to communicate wildfire smoke hazards, and reduce employee exposure to wildfire smoke when the air quality index reaches 101 or above.
Workplaces that are in enclosed buildings where air is filtered by a mechanical ventilation system and enclosed vehicles where air is filtered by a cabin air filter are exempt from the rules as long as the employer ensures that all windows and exterior openings of buildings and vehicles are closed except when necessary. Wildland firefighters, rescue, utilities, communications, and medical operations involved in aiding emergency operations or firefighter operations are exempt from training requirements but are not exempt from notification and exposure control requirements.
Covered employers must provide training to employees who may be exposed to an AQI at or above 101 by August 16, 2021. OSHA has sample training materials found here.
Employers must also notify employees when the ambient air concentration reaches the following levels:
at or above AQI 101;
at or above AQI 201;
at or above AQI 500; and
when it drops below levels requiring protective measures
Exposure Control Requirements
Finally, employers must implement the following exposure controls:
Use engineering or administrative controls whenever possible to reduce employee exposure to less than AQI 201. Engineering controls include enclosed buildings or vehicles where the air can be adequately filtered and administrative controls include relocating work to another outdoor location with better air quality or changing work schedules.
If employee exposure exceeds AQI 101, employers must provide the respirators at no cost and make them readily available to employees for voluntary use. KN95 masks can be substituted for NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators unless the AQI exceeds 501.
If employee exposure exceeds AQI 201, employers must ensure employees wear NIOSH-approved respirators or KN95 masks (unless the AQI exceeds 501).
When the AQI is 501 and NIOSH-approved respirators are necessary, the employer must provide a complete Respiratory Protection Program provided for under OSHA rules.
Employer Action Items
Covered employers should begin training if they have not done so already. Employers should monitor air quality information and implement a plan on how notices regarding air quality will be communicated to employees. Finally, employers should have KN95 masks available for all employees subject to wildfire smoke and, where there is potential for AQI at or above 501, NIOSH-approved respirators.
If you have any questions about the OSHA temporary rules, please do not hesitate to contact me at or 503-595-6112.