Smoke from wildfires and workers’ compensation

| May 15, 2019 | Workers' Compensation |

California firefighters and other types of emergency responders face various risks and threats when fighting fires, especially wildfires. In 2018 alone, millions of acres burned in California, and the men and women who are called to fight these types of outbreaks deserve as much safety as reasonably possible when they go to work. This includes having access to necessary safety equipment. Keeping workers safe means fewer workers’ compensation claims for smoke-related illnesses.

A new bill recently passed in California’s State Assembly that would require employers to provide respirators to firefighters who are fighting wildfires. There are some who believe that this type of respiratory protection is only the first step. Currently, there is proposed legislation from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health that would provide additional protections for both indoor and outdoor workers.

If the proposed legislation passes, employers would have to provide firefighters protection through engineering controls and administrative controls. The goal of this would be to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke. If those two things are not possible, they should then have access to respirators. Wildfire smoke can be particularly dangerous, exposing workers to dangerous particles and gases that can be inhaled. This can lead to an increased likelihood of experiencing serious medical problems.

Firefighters have risky jobs, but they still have the right to certain types of protection on the job. If a man or woman develops a health issue as a result of his or her firefighting duties, that individual would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Sick workers may have a rightful claim to medical care, recovery of some lost wages and even help getting back to work. 


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