The typical summertime wildfires in California are particularly severe this year. However, it is not only the wildfire fighters who are at risk of smoke inhalation and other fire-related injuries and illnesses. Workers in the affected areas face similar risks. When smoke gets airborne, it can travel far beyond the fire zone. Fires consume all kinds of chemicals, and the smoke contains dangerous gases and toxic particles.
Workers who inhale the smoke risk serious health consequences. However, those with asthma or other lung diseases, chest pain or heart disease are at higher risks of health damage. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has specific safety regulations applicable in the extended zones affected by wildfires.
Most importantly, employers must monitor air quality in work areas. That information is available daily for all ZIP code areas. They must take steps to move employees to less affected areas if the Air Quality Index exceeds a certain level. Relocating workers to indoor spaces with properly filtered air are crucial for their protection. Training is essential to ensure workers understand the risks and know which personal protective equipment they must wear, and how to wear it.
California workers who suffer the consequences of wildfire smoke inhalation are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. State-regulated insurance covers any work-related injuries. Some injury types are more difficult to prove as work-related, and an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can simplify the claims process. Legal counsel can navigate the benefits claims process in pursuit of compensation to cover at least medical expenses, lost wages, and additional benefits for injuries that caused permanent health damage.