New bill to prevent wildfire smoke-related workplace injuries


2018 proved to be one of California’s worst wildfire seasons in its recorded history. Over 7,500 fires destroyed almost 1.7 million acres and thousands of structures, causing the deaths of more than 100 people. This gave rise to the introduction of a bill that aims to protect outdoor workers across the state from workplace injuries caused by harmful wildfire smoke.

Millions of outdoor workers need protection against the hazard of wildfire smoke that contains various gases and particles from burning buildings and vegetation. Many of the burning structures release lead, asbestos and other toxins. Inhalation of the toxic particles and chemicals that penetrate the lungs cause severe health problems.

According to the bill, when exposed workers inhale wildfire smoke, it can cause permanent damage to the functioning of their lungs. It can also cause cancer and trigger heart disease, and it could cause premature death. Reportedly, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health will determine when the smoke reaches harmful levels by measuring the local air quality index. The bill states that the unpredictability of wildfires will allow employers to issue respirators to outdoor workers without fire testing and medical evaluations as required under all other circumstances.

California workers who suffered adverse health consequences after exposure to wildfire smoke are entitled to pursue financial relief through the state-regulated workers’ compensation insurance program. Although the system covers all workplace injuries, proving some health conditions to be work-related might need the skills of an experienced workers’ comp attorney. Legal counsel can assist with all the legal and administrative proceedings to secure compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and other applicable benefits.

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