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Outdoor Workers Face Injury Risks From California Wildfires and Smoke Exposure

 Posted on August 10,2021 in Workers' Compensation

Morgan Hill CA workers compensation lawyerIn California, there have been 4,000 wildfire incidents so far this year. One of those fires, the Dixie fire, has been classified as the largest single wildfire in California’s history, burning for the past 26 days and already destroying almost 500,000 acres of property. As of this writing, the fire has been only 22 percent contained.

These wildfires put firefighters and other emergency workers at high risk of being seriously injured or killed, but the effects on California workers may be even more widespread. The state recently issued a warning to all California employers of the risk any employees who work outdoors may also be facing. If you develop an injury due to exposure to smoke, fire, or poor air quality in the course of your work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation.

Dangers of Wildfire Smoke to Outdoor Workers

The smoke that is produced in wildfires contains fine particles, chemicals, and gases that can cause injury or illness to anyone working outdoors. One of the most dangerous hazards is known as particulate matter, or PM2.5, which can impair a worker’s lung functioning, worsen asthma and other respiratory conditions, and worsen heart conditions. Workers exposed to these particles can suffer from wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

The hazardous smoke that is produced by wildfires recently prompted California to implement the Protection From Wildfire Smoke standard. With ongoing wildfires currently threatening air quality throughout California, the State has reminded employers of their obligations under this standard.

When a worksite is at risk of being affected by wildfire smoke, the standard requires the employer to periodically measure the air quality index for PM2.5 in order to make sure the proper steps are taken to protect workers. If the air quality index for PM2.5 reaches 151 or higher, employers are required to do the following:

  • Inform workers of the air quality index measurement and let them know what protective measures are available

  • Ensure that all workers are instructed and trained on all the information contained in the Protection From Wildfire Smoke standard

  • Make any practicable modifications to the worksite to reduce worker exposure

  • Make any feasible changes to workers’ schedules and/or procedures

  • Provide the proper respiratory equipment, including N95 respirators, as outlined in the Protection From Wildfire Smoke standard.

If the air quality index for PM2.5 reaches 500 or higher, employers are required to implement and provide all workers with respirators as required under the state’s respiratory standard.

Contact a Santa Clara County Workers’ Compensation Attorney for Legal Assistance

If you are an outdoor worker who has suffered an injury or illness due to exposure to wildfire smoke, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits for medical expenses and a percentage of your wages while you recover from your injuries. Call Cramer & Martinez, LLP at 408-848-1113 to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our skilled Morgan Hill, CA work injury attorneys.



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