In response to the uptick in California wildfires, Cal/OSHA set forth emergency regulations to help protect employees at risk for smoke inhalation.
Smoke results in poor air quality that can cause serious breathing problems. If you suffer this kind of work-related issue, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
In California, wildfires often take place in the spring and again in the fall. The smoke the fires produce contains a variety of gases, chemicals and fine particles. Breathing these particles can cause a reduction in lung function, make asthma worse and cause related breathing difficulties such as COPD. Cal/OSHA provided employers with emergency regulations that go into effect when the Air Quality Index for airborne particles is 151 (PM 2.5) or greater.
What employers must do
Cal/OSHA extended its emergency regulations to January 20, 2021, but seeks to make them permanent. The regulations require employers to monitor worksite air quality. They must educate employees about the regulations, provide masks and respirators if needed and relocate employees who work outside or are otherwise at risk from breathing unhealthy particulates.
The no-fault system
The California workers’ compensation program employs the “no-fault system,” which means that an employee injured on the job has the right to receive benefits no matter how the incident occurred. Many areas in California are vulnerable to drifting, dangerous wildfire smoke. If smoke inhalation from this or any other source affects your health, you may file a claim for benefits. As a side note, if your employer fails to take steps to ensure your safety in this regard, you can file a complaint with Cal/OSHA.