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News & Press: Regulatory/CAL OSHA Issues

Important Update on Wildfire Smoke Protection

Friday, June 12, 2020   (0 Comments)
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CALPASC Director of Risk Management Bruce Wick has been seeking clarification from Cal/OSHA regarding the wildfire smoke protection regulations and the lack of availability of N95 respirators. He has been working with other coalition partners in asking Cal/OSHA's Chief and Deputy Chief of Research and Standards; as to what precautions employers can take. The information from multiple government sources is that employers should not compete with first responders and medical personnel for the availability of N95 respirators, due to the COVID-19 pandemic; for wildfire smoke protection. But the Cal/OSHA wildfire smoke regulations say N95 respirators are the minimal protection; and surgical masks or other face coverings do not provide protection from PM 2.5 wildfire smoke.

Cal/OSHA has not issued anything formal yet, but has said they are testing the potential for KN95 respirators to be an alternative.  KN95 respirators are generally made in China, and most are not NIOSH approved. Therefore, they don't provide as much protection as a true N95 respirator, but certainly would provide more protection than a surgical mask or cloth face covering. What is clear is that a KN95 with ear loops instead of bands will provide very little protection. Governor Newsom has supposedly gotten approval that 105 million KN95 respirators from China will be approved by NIOSH. This will help the supply if true, but obviously most of these will be dedicated to first responders and  medical personnel.

The coalition Bruce is working with has decided to send a formal request to the Cal/OSHA Chief to provide something to guide employers on this issue. We are asking either to suspend the requirement to provide N95 respirators, or clarify if KN95 respirators can be used as an alternative, until N95 respirators become commercially available again.

You can see a copy of the letter by clicking here.

We will give you more information as it becomes available. Unfortunately California employers are in the middle of two converging issues, COVID-19 and wildfire smoke regulations.

Any questions please contact CALPASC Director of Risk Management Bruce Wick, at 760-535-9623, or bwick@calpasc.org

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