Outdoor worker protections
The policy and guidance provided by Environmental Health & Safety (EHS&) is based on the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) Wildfire Smoke emergency rule. The emergency rule provides protection for personnel working outdoors for more than one hour who may be reasonably expected to be exposed to wildfire smoke. The rule identifies two action levels to protect personnel when air quality worsens.
For guidance for working indoors during periods of elevated wildfire smoke, refer to the Indoor Air Quality page for more information and instructions for requesting an indoor air quality evaluation.
When AQI reaches 69
When the AQI is at 69 or higher in the location where outdoor work is occurring, the University is responsible for the following:
- Communicating wildfire smoke hazards
- Providing training regarding wildfire smoke (initially before exposure and annually thereafter).
- Providing respiratory protection to employees upon request
Refer to the Responsibilities section of this page for more information.
Refer to the Air quality monitoring section of this page to check the AQI.
When AQI reaches 101
When the AQI is at 101 or higher in the location where outdoor work is occurring, University units must implement these additional safety measures where feasible:
- Providing work and/or rest areas in enclosed buildings, structures, or vehicles where the air is effectively filtered
- Relocating work indoors or to an outdoor location with a lower AQI
- Changing work schedules so that outdoor work can occur when the AQI is lower
- Reducing the amount of work that involves physical exertion
- Providing additional rest periods
- Monitoring personnel for exposure symptoms; refer to the symptoms list in the frequently asked questions section of this page.
When the AQI is at 101 or higher, the University unit is required to provide respirators at no cost to personnel exposed to wildfire smoke.
- Respirators must be NIOSH-approved devices that effectively protect the wearers from inhalation of particles at the 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) size, such as N95 disposable filtering facepiece respirators (KN95 respirators not permitted).
- Respirators are required to be stored, maintained, replaced, and reusable respirators cleaned, so that they do not present a health hazard to the user.
When AQI reaches 555
When the AQI reaches 555, the airborne concentration of PM2.5 is 555 or more micrograms of gaseous pollutant per cubic meter of ambient air (ug/m3), UW personnel must be enrolled in the respiratory protection program. Personnel must be provided and are required to wear one of the following respirators equipped with high efficiency particulate air filters:
- Loose-fitting powered air-purifying respirator; or
- Full-facepiece air-purifying respirator; or
- Full-facepiece powered air-purifying respirator; or
- Other respirators that are at least effective.
The following items do not provide adequate respiratory protection from wildfire smoke:
- Surgical masks
- Cloth face coverings