Protection from Wildfire Smoke Employee training Porterville College

Training Content

This Training will cover:

  • The health effects of smoke.
  • The right to obtain medical treatment.
  • How employees can obtain the current Air Quality Index (AQI) for PM2.5.
  • The employer's two-way communication system.
  • The requirements in Title 8, section 5141.1 about wildfire smoke.
  • The employer's method to protect employees from wildfire smoke.
  • The importance, limitations, and benefits of using a respirator when exposed to wildfire smoke.
  • How to properly put on, use, and maintain the respirator provided by the employer.

The health effects of wildfire smoke

Although there are many hazardous chemicals in wildfire smoke, the main harmful pollutant for people who are not very close to the fire is “particulate matter,” the tiny particles suspended in the air.

Particulate matter can irritate the lungs and cause persistent coughing, phlegm, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. Particulate matter can also cause more serious problems, such as reduced lung function, bronchitis, worsening of asthma, heart failure, and early death.

People over 65 and people who already have heart and lung problems are the most likely to suffer from serious health effects.

the right to obtain medical treatment

Employers shall allow employees who show signs of injury or illness due to wildfire smoke exposure to seek medical treatment, and may not punish affected employees for seeking such treatment.

Employers shall also have effective provisions made in advance for prompt medical treatment of employees in the event of serious injury or illness caused by wildfire smoke exposure.

PC employees should notify their supervisor and HR within 24 hours of any workplace-caused injury or illness, including those related to work-related wildfire smoke exposure.

how employees can obtain the current air QUALITY index (AQI) for PM2.5

In the event of a wildfire, PC administration and/or the PC Public Information Officer will provide Air Quality Index (AQI) information to the campus community. However, individuals can also monitor the AQI by visiting one of the following websites:

The requirements in Title 8, section 5141.1 about wildfire smoke

If employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke, then the employer is required to find out the current AQI applicable to the worksite. If the current AQI for PM2.5 is 151 or more, the employer is required to:

  • Check the current AQI before and periodically during each shift.
  • Provide training to employees.
  • Lower employee exposures.
  • Provide respirators and encourage their use.

porterville college's two way communication system from wildfire smoke

PC administration and/or the PC Public Information Officer are responsible for informing the campus about air quality, protective measures, and campus closures. Communication methods can include emails, text alerts, phone call and/or PC website updates.

Note: Employees are encouraged to inform their supervisors or PC administration if they notice the air quality is getting worse, or if they are suffering from any symptoms due to the air quality. There will be no reprisal for such notification.

porterville college's wildfire smoke exposure protection methods

The primary method of controlling exposure to wildfire smoke at PC is Engineering Controls. Acceptable Engineering Controls include enclosed buildings, structures, or vehicles where the air is filtered.

Whenever Engineering Controls are not feasible or do not reduce employee exposure to PM 2.5 to less than a AQI of 151, PC will implement Administrative Controls. Acceptable Administrative Controls include relocating workers to a location where the AQI is lower, changing work schedules, reducing work intensity, or providing rest periods.

The importance, limitations, and benefits of using a respirator when exposed to wildfire smoke

  1. When properly selected and worn, respirators can provide respiratory protection against airborne hazards such as PM2.5.
  2. Filtering facepiece respirators, such as N95 respirators, do not protect you against gases and vapors, and they do not provide oxygen.
  3. During a wildfire event, respiratory protection can be beneficial even when the AQI for PM2.5 is 500, respirator use is required
  4. Medical clearance is not required for voluntary N95 respirator use in the event of a wildfire however, employees with heart or respiratory conditions should consult their physician before using a respirator.
  5. Respirators must be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The respirator or packaging should indicate that it has been NIOSH certified.
  6. The respirator manufacture’s use, maintenance, cleaning, and care instructions must be followed.
  7. Employees should keep track of their respirator so that they do not mistakenly use someone else's respirator.
  8. Employees who have a heart or lung problem should ask their doctor before using a respirator.

When the current AQI for PM2.5 is 151 or greater, employers shall provide their workers with proper respirators for voluntary use. If the current AQI is greater than 500, respirator use is required.

Note: Surgical masks or items worn over the nose and mouth such as scarves, T-shirts, and bandannas will not provide protection against wildfire smoke. An N95 filtering facepiece respirator is the minimum level of protection for wildfire smoke.

How to properly put on, use, and maintain the respirator provided by the employer

The manufacturer’s instructions will inform the user of how to properly put on, use, and maintain that specific respirator. The following are general guidelines:

  • To be effective, respirators must have a tight seal around the user’s face.
  • Facial hair should not interfere with the seal of the mask.
  • N95 filtering facepiece respirators are disposable and should be replaced at the beginning of each work shift.
  • Respirator filters or N95 filtering facepiece respirators should be replaced if they are damaged, heavily soiled, or are difficult to breathe through.
  • If you have symptoms such as difficulty breathing, dizziness, or nausea, go to an area with cleaner air, take off the respirator, and seek medical attention.

For those who use an N95 or other filtering face piece respirator mask that is made of filter material

Following these simple steps will help you properly put on and take off your respirator, and keep you and everyone else safe.

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Inspect the respirator for damage. If it appears damaged or damp, do not use it.
  3. Cup the respirator in your hand with the nosepiece at your fingertips and the straps hanging below your hand.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose with the respirator and make sure there are no gaps (e.g., facial hair, hair, and glasses) between your face and the respirator.
  5. Place the strap over your head and rest at the top back of your head. If you have a second strap, place the bottom strap around your neck and below your ears. Do not crisscross straps.
  6. If your respirator has a metal nose clip, use your fingertips from both hands to mold the nose area to the shape of your nose.

for additional information

This presentation is designed to be in compliance with Cal/OSHA General Industry Safety Standard, CCR Title 8, Sec. 5141.1. Please call Campus Safety and Security 559-791-2440 for additional information.

Additional resources:


  • https://bfa.sdsu.edu/safety/ehs/docs/wildfiresmoketraining.pdf


  • https://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/removing-trial-error-approach-healthcare-treatment/
  • https://www.deq.ok.gov/air-quality-division/ambient-monitoring/aqi-ozone-watches-alerts-and-health-advisories/
  • https://www.fcneurology.net/tips-for-face-masks-and-face-coverings/
  • https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/N95-mask-questions.html
  • https://www.sylvane.com/long-term-effects-from-wildfires.html
Created By
Todd Dearmore


Created with images by Jeremy Perkins - "My dad is a radio tech for the state of California. He usually gets sent to work on radio towers during wildfires in the Sierra Nevada mountains. He took this gorgeous photo with his iPhone. If you zoom in, you can see the flames behind the mountain peak! This photo was too gorgeous not to share." • Waldemar Brandt - "untitled image"