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Wildfire Smoke

Fired Up! Workers Spur Standards Board to Act on Wildfire Smoke

On March 21st, day laborers, farmworkers, and others packed a Cal/OSHA Standards Board meeting in Pasadena to urge action on emergency rulemaking to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke.

The workers’ message was heard; the Board voted unanimously in favor of developing an emergency standard.

Worksafe, along with California Labor Federation and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, submitted a petition to the Standards Board last December which called for developing an emergency standard on wildfire smoke exposure before the next fire season arrived.

The fate of the petition was uncertain heading into the meeting on the 21st. The Division had recommended full adoption, but Board staff proposed instead to convene an advisory committee to determine whether emergency rulemaking should be initiated, a process that could have delayed action for months or thwarted it altogether.

Workers and advocates made a strong case at the hearing for more urgent action. Many told harrowing stories of the smoke conditions and inadequate safety response during the Thomas and Woolsey fires last year. A group of workers stood with signs and chanted “save our lives” throughout the hearing.

Many of our allies helped win this victory through their organizing and testimony, including California Labor Federation, CRLA, CRLAF, CAUSE, IDEPSCA, MICOP, NDLON, SoCal COSH, and UCLA-LOSH. 

The Board’s decision directs the Division to draft an emergency rulemaking proposal for consideration and adoption no later than the July Board meeting. It also directs the Division to convene an advisory committee process to develop a permanent wildfire smoke regulation.

Worksafe and our partners are also supporting current legislation, AB 1124, to require the Board to adopt a permanent wildfire smoke regulation by June 13, 2019.

Stay tuned for opportunities to support all of these efforts moving forward!