If you are struggling to find N95 filtering facepiece respirators to protect your outdoor workers from wildfire smoke you are not alone. With both COVID-19 and wildfire smoke present across California, N95s are difficult to locate in the marketplace. Cal/OSHA addressed these concerns directly in an August 20th press release, along with other important information.

PRISM Risk Control will continue to monitor and provide additional information as it becomes available from the division (they are working to identify viable temporary alternatives).

In the meantime, consider reaching out to your County Ag Commissioner and see if they are able to provide N95 masks for your outdoor workers who cannot perform duties indoors: “CalOES and the California Department of Food and Agriculture are working in partnership to provide approximately one million N-95 masks to help protect farmworkers from wildfire smoke. County Agricultural Commissioners in affected counties will distribute the masks.”

In any case, the following are best practices for workdays when the air quality is affected by wildfire smoke or otherwise unhealthy to be outdoors:

  • Plan outdoor work around the smokiest times in order to minimize exposure – utilizing air quality reports you may find that the smoke is worse in the beginning or end of the workday.
  • Stay Indoors – For those whose work normally takes them outside, unhealthy air days might be an ideal time to catch up on office activities, paperwork or other indoor tasks.
  • Limit Strenuous Outdoor Activity – Those work activities that require heavy physical exertion should be avoided.
  • Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible. 
  • Ensure that the building HVAC systems’ filters are not dirty, damaged, dislodged, leaking around the edges and are in proper working order. For more on HVAC systems, please refer to the Cal/OSHA guidance for indoor work areas here.
  • When in a vehicle – keep the windows rolled up and run the air-conditioner/heater on the recirculate setting.
  • Keep airways moist by drinking plenty of water
  • Cloth face coverings required to limit the spread of COVID-19 will not protect your lungs from the fine particles found in wildfire smoke.

As always, if you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact the Risk Control Department.