Wildfire Response with Aeroqual
Protecting Our Greatest Asset: You.
All private U.S. employers are required to meet Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for maintaining a healthy and safe workplace. Most states, including California and Oregon, have established their own agencies to clarify standards or exceed Federal guidelines for worker safety. While most firefighters are considered local or state government employees and are protected under autonomous rules, all independent firefighters and contractors fall under Federal OSHA jurisdiction*.
Emergency response workers are known for their unparalleled service to communities and businesses. Exposing themselves to environmental hazards that pose significant health risks is just a routine part of the job. In an age of unprecedented wildfires, legislators are now stepping up to protect every worker† who could be impacted by smoke exposure. Breathing in fine particles released into the air during and after wildfires can reduce lung function and worsen asthma and other existing heart and lung conditions‡.
Rules and Regulations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the Federal body responsible for establishing and monitoring environmental standards and conditions, and when it comes to air quality, OSHA takes its queue from them. Air pollution monitoring isn’t new, but our understanding of it and the tools we use to analyze it improve every day. The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common air pollutants (also called Criteria Air Pollutants): Ground-level Ozone, Carbon Monoxide, Lead, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, and Particulate Matter. Particulate Matter, or PM, is measured in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3).
In California, Title 8, Section 5141.1 outlines the responsibilities of California employers in protecting workers from wildfire smoke exposure. The law decrees that businesses must take action where the current Air Quality Index (AQI) is 151 or greater for airborne Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM 2.5). The AQI may be independently site-tested or determined using the EPA’s AirNow.gov web tool.
In Oregon, the legislative process is under way to enact protective regulations for workers exposed to excessive heat and wildfire smoke. On March 10, 2020, Governor Kate Brown issued Executive Order 20-04 (EO 20-04) that provides a directive to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon OSHA to jointly work towards creating two new safety standards§.
In Washington, Emergency Rule 2126CR103E was signed on July 16, 2021 and remains in effect until November 13, 2021. Adopted as WAC 296-62-085 Wildfire Smoke, the State’s workplace wildfire smoke standards are similar to those of California.
Tools for Self-Monitoring
Every business has a responsibility to protect its workers, and when it comes to wildfire smoke monitoring, Aeroqual provides professionals with the tools necessary to keep your team safe. Staying in compliance isn’t just about obeying the law—it’s about doing the right thing. As public health concerns over wildfire smoke exposure steadily rise, position your organization as a reliable source that takes safety seriously. Wildfire Smoke Monitoring Kits are affordable, accessible, and OSHA-accurate.
The Kit is based on Aeroqual’s industry-defining Series 300 unit, includes PM2.5/10 and temp/humidity sensors and rechargeable battery, all in a compact, hardshell carrying case the size of the average briefcase. Units can be calibrated in the field and data can be transferred directly to a computer via USB.
* Cal/OSHA Title 8, Section 5141.1 provides governance to private businesses in California for both indoor and outdoor work environments. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not cover public-sector employees, paid or otherwise, per Section (3)(5) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. See: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2006-10-11-1. OSHA Standard 1910.156 outlines Federal guidelines for non-Public Fire Brigades.
† See: Interpretation of Standard 1910.156: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/1988-05-04
‡ See: CDC’s NIOSH Fighting Wildfires: Outdoor Workers Exposed to Wildfire Smoke: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/firefighting/wffsmoke.html
§ Current as of this publication. See: https://osha.oregon.gov/rules/advisory/smoke/Pages/default.aspx
Information on wildfires from the California Air Resources Board: https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/index.php/ and https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/index.php/protecting-yourself-wildfire-smoke