Nevada OSHA is currently seeking comment from stakeholders of the regulated community on the potential proposal of a wildfire smoke protection regulation.
Wildfire smoke is known to regularly blanket broad regions of Nevada. The presence of smoke from wildfires directly impacts both indoor and outdoor air quality in regions where smoke is present. Wildfire smoke is composed of small particles suspended in the air that present a health hazard for workers exposed to it. These particles can irritate the lungs and have a range of potentially serious health effects from permanently reduced lung function to heart failure. Air quality is monitored using the EPA Air Quality Index (AQI) which identifies the level of air pollution
The EPA Air Quality Index categories are separated into 6 levels of concern. They are:
- 0 to 50 – Good
- Air quality is satisfactory and poses little or no risk.
- 51 to 100 – Moderate
- Air quality is acceptable. There may be a risk for some people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
- 101 to 150 – Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
- Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects.
- 151 to 200 – Unhealthy
- Some members of the general public may experience health effects. Sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
- 201 to 300 – Very Unhealthy
- Health alert: The risk of health effects is increased for everyone.
- 301 and higher – Hazardous
- Health warning of emergency conditions: Everyone is more likely to be affected.
During the previous wildfire season, AQI trends in northern Nevada indicated that significant patters of hazardous outdoor air quality were present. Localized monitoring stations in and around Reno, Carson City, Stateline, Virginia City, and Minden/Gardnerville showed AQI levels at or above 450.
In general, outdoor air quality is highly variable depending on location, altitude, and weather conditions. Employers are expected to monitor working conditions at any location where their employees are performing work, to identify hazards that are causing or are likely to cause harm to their employees, and to implement effective methods to control those hazards.
While Nevada OSHA has not set an outdoor air quality standard, if the agency determines that workers are exposed to an uncontrolled hazard based on the outdoor air quality at their workplace, the agency could consider an enforcement action citing Nevada Revised Statutes section 618.375(1), known as the general duty clause.
Nevada OSHA would like to create a permanent vertical standard that directly applies to the hazards associated with wildfire smoke inhalation.
Currently at least 3 other state OSHA plans have existing vertical standards for the purposes of protecting workers required to perform their duties during wildfire conditions.
California (permanent rule): Wildfire Smoke Emergency Standard (ca.gov)
Oregon (temporary emergency rule – working on permanent rule): Final Language for Temporary Rule on Protection from Wildfire Smoke (oregon.gov)
Washington (temporary emergency rule): Wildfire Smoke (wa.gov)
We ask that the stakeholder groups consider the following questions/concepts in their comments:
- Plan for protecting workers from wildfire smoke
- Which employers should be required to have a plan?
- What components should be included in a plan?
- How should workers be notified of hazardous conditions?
- What training should be provided?
- Controls to be identified
- How should employers measure air quality? (type of instruments, local reports, etc.)
- Should multiple methods of measurement be allowed?
- Control of exposure
- What type of administrative and engineering controls should be required?
- What level of PPE should be required at different levels of air quality?
- Any other suggestions/concerns
For your comments to be considered before Nevada OSHA moves forward on this process, please have your comments submitted no later than 12/3/2021.
Please direct comments to the following personnel:
William Gardner, Chief Administrative Officer
Jimmy Andrews, Program Coordinator
Michael Rodrigues, Program Coordinator