More Stringent Air Quality Standards on The Way

Brian German Agri-Business, Regulation

Air quality standards could become even more strict as a new proposal is making its way through the regulatory process.  Back in July, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Standards Board passed an emergency regulation related to worker safety as it pertains to smoke exposure.  Cal/OSHA is now working toward creating a permanent regulation with a more stringent version of the emergency rule.

Air quality standards“That regulation is only good for a maximum of one year as per the laws around emergency rulemaking,” said AgSafe President and CEO Amy Wolfe.  “One of the things that I think is most interesting about what they have proposed is they’re looking at reducing the threshold trigger for complying with additional barriers for workers from an air quality index reading of 150 down to 100.”

One of the objections to the rule is the use of the air quality index (AQI) as a qualifier, as it does not accurately measure particulate matter 2.5.  Wolfe noted that while Cal/OSHA staff have expressed concern regarding the use of the AQI, they are still using it as the basis for the proposed rule.  “They’re just looking at continuing with what we’ve got and lowering the threshold which now captures many more employers with much more frequency.  But we’re still not getting to a tool that measures the real risk,” said Wolfe.

The proposed air quality standards are also creating concern related to the N95 respirator that employers would be required to supply.  Lowering the threshold for when a respirator is required will increase the overall need for N95’s and increase the overall cost for employers.  Wolfe said that the medical community has also provided interesting feedback by highlighting the issue of limited availability of that particular type of respirator. 

“If you are a smaller employer in some of our more rural communities – which is agriculture by definition – what access do you have to N95 respirators? How far in advance are you having to think about making sure you’re stocked up?” Wolfe noted.  “Those are a form of personal protective equipment that need to be replaced with great frequency, so what is that additional cost? There’s just a lot going on relative to what this change means.”

Listen to Wolfe’s interview below.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West