Wildfires have long been a serious safety hazard in the Western United States, particularly in stretches of our region. Northern, Central, and Southern California are all affected by wildfires. The California Air Resources Board emphasizes that “the area burned by California wildfires each year has been increasing” over the last seven decades.
A large wildfire can impact many communities, including some that are not in the direct vicinity of the blaze. Wildfire smoke is a public health hazard. State regulators recently accounted for new wildfire-related workplace safety guidelines. Here, our Fresno workers’ comp lawyer discusses the new wildfire smoke workplace safety standards for school employees in California.
On November 3rd, 2021, the California’s Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC)officially released revised guidelines called Worker Protection from Wildfire Smoke: Cal/OSHA Wildfire Smoke Standard 2021—a comprehensive program to help ensure worker safety in the state’s schools. Here are four key things workers should know about the guidance:
- Workers in Wildfire Prone Areas Should Know Early Warning Symptoms: Wildfire smoke can cause serious injuries, illnesses, and medical impairments. Any early warning signs of health issues require action. The early warning symptoms of wildfire smoke injury/illness include: irritation of the eyes, the nose, or the throat, general trouble breathing, a cough, and/or chest pain.
- Employees Must be Protected From Wildfire Smoke: California has a workplace safety regulation in place that requires employers to protect their workers from the dangers posed by wildfire smoke. Under CAL/OSHA §5141.1, employers have a duty to anticipate wildfire smoke hazards and take proactive action to protect workers.
- Schools Must Monitor Air Quality and Take Action: California has state-recognized wildfire air quality standards in place. Schools are required to monitor these air quality measurements. When the air quality index (AQI) reaches 151, it is considered to be “unhealthy” by state officials. In this scenario, schools must communicate the risk to their employees, minimize exposure, and provide approved N95 filtering devices and encourage voluntary use by employees. If the AQI reaches 500 (extremely unhealthy), N95 filtering device use must be mandated or the school must be closed.
Teachers and other public school employees may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for an injury or illness caused by wildfire smoke. If you or your loved one was required to work during a period of wildfire smoke and sustained a smoke-related injury/illness, an experienced Fresno workers’ comp lawyer can help.
Get Help From a Work Injury Attorney in Fresno, CaliforniaA partner and shareholder based in the Fresno law office of Yrulegui & Roberts, Joseph C. Yrulegui is a top-rated workers’ compensation lawyer. If you are a teacher or school employee who was hurt on the job, Mr. Yrulegui will protect your rights. Call us now or connect with us online for help with your case. We provide workers’ compensation representation throughout Fresno County, including in Fresno, Sanger, Selma, Firebaugh, Kingsburg, Kerman, Huron, and Coalinga.