Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OR-OSHA) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) have issued new guidance urging employers to stop or delay outdoor work activity when air quality is deemed unhealthy.
Employers are urged to allow workers with underlying health conditions to stay home, rearrange hours/schedules and tasks if needed to enable workers to get relief from smoky air, and provide N95 masks when and where appropriate.
The agency noted that jobs requiring heavy and prolonged exertion result in a higher respiratory rate, which “will increase harmful pollutant exposure and increase the risk of adverse health effects.”
Many OAN member companies reported they have adjusted their operations in light of the conditions. Some have given workers the option to go home, while many others have stopped production until conditions improve.
The air quality index (AQI) is the standard measure of air quality. The unhealthy range is 151–200. From 201–300 is considered very unhealthy, and above 301 is considered hazardous. As of Wednesday morning, air quality throughout the Northwest was still unhealthy or worse except in isolated areas on the coast and inland.
Atomospheric scientist Cliff Mass from the University of Washington expects air conditions to improve starting on Saturday, with a return to near normal conditions next week when a new weather system arrives.