Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted effective July 1, 2022, permanent rules to protect workers from unhealthy or hazardous levels of wildfire smoke.
The Oregon OSHA Protection from Wildfire Smoke rules apply to Oregon State University and all employers whose employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke where the ambient air concentration for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is at or above 35.5 ug/m3 (Air Quality Index [AQI] value of 101 for PM2.5). These rules follow temporary OSHA rules established last summer in response to frequent large-scale wildfire events across the western United States.
The following employees are exempt from this Wildfire Smoke standard:
• Employees working in enclosed buildings, structures and vehicles in which air is filtered by a mechanical ventilation system, and when exterior openings are kept closed, except when it is necessary to briefly open doors to enter or exit a building.
• Employees whose supervisors have suspended operations to prevent employee exposure to wildfire smoke levels at or above AQI 101.
• Employees working at home.
Employees with intermittent exposure to wildfire smoke are partially exempt. This includes those working in activities with less than 15 minutes exposure in an hour to wildfire smoke levels at AQI 101, for a total exposure of less than one hour in a single 24-hour period. Intermittent employee exposure requires employees be provided information and training listed below and for employers to provide NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators for voluntary use.
Key requirements of the OSHA standard are provided on this fact sheet and include:
• Monitor air quality. Supervisors shall monitor air quality within OSU campuses utilizing the EH&S Wildfire Smoke/Air Quality webpage. Air quality status is also available by checking the DEQ Wildfire website or the EPA AirNow Fire and Smoke Map website.
• Provide training. Annual training is required for employees exposed to wildfire smoke levels at or above AQI 101. Oregon OSHA Wildfire Smoke Training can be found under the Occupational Health and Safety section of the Training/Course Directory menu in EH&S SciShield.
• Provide respirators. Supervisors must provide NIOSH-approved filtering facepiece respirators for voluntary use when the AQI is at or above 101 and mandatory use when the AQI is at or above 251. Respirators are available free of charge for university employees. Orders can be placed using Resumption Supplies Orders in OSU Surplus Property. Respirators are also available at OSU Chemistry Stores.
• Exposure controls. Use engineering controls to reduce employee exposure (such as providing enclosed workspaces in buildings, structures, or vehicles in which the air is adequately filtered) or administrative controls (such as relocating work locations for employees or changing work schedules) to reduce exposures when the AQI is at or above 101. The rules do not specify a preference between the two approaches so the supervisor can choose the most feasible measures to reduce exposure.
• Implement two-way communication system. A two-way communication system must be used to communicate wildfire smoke information between supervisors and employees. Such information includes any changes in the air quality at the work location that would necessitate an increase or decrease in the level of exposure controls. The two-way communication must also allow employees to report health symptoms from wildfire smoke exposure that could necessitate medical attention. The means to share information may include, but are not limited to, in-person, cell phone and two-way radio communication.
Wildfires in Oregon and on the West Coast can result in smoke and poor air quality in the Willamette Valley. Air pollution levels are measured by the Air Quality Index — or AQI — which includes gases and particulate matter. The higher the levels on the AQI, the greater the potential health risks.
To monitor local air quality at the Corvallis campus, Oregon State University has installed three AQI monitoring stations at Bates Hall, Sports Performance Center, and Tebeau Hall. Additional off-campus AQI monitoring stations are located at Tykeson Hall - Cascades Campus and at the Gladys Valley Marine Sciences Building – Newport.
Additional monitoring stations operated by governmental agencies are also located throughout the state as indicated on the OpenMap below. You can scroll through the OpenMap and click on the circle (denoting each air monitoring station) for the geographical area you are interested in.
For OSU Extension and other affiliated locations, a full Western US wildfire map can be viewed as well.