Today's Law As Amended

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AB-1124 Employment safety: outdoor workers: wildfire smoke.(2019-2020)

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) California’s epidemic of deadly wildfires continues to worsen, with the death toll and eventual financial costs of 2018 dwarfing those of previous years.
(b) In 2018, California experienced 7,571 wildfires, burning 1,700,000 million acres of land and tens of thousands of structures.
(c) One report estimates that the 2018 California wildfires were the most expensive natural disaster in American history, with a cost reaching $400 billion.
(d) Countless animals and 100 people were killed, with many more suffering burns, other severe injuries, and a variety of serious conditions resulting from inhaling extremely unhealthy levels of wildfire smoke.
(e) Wildfire smoke consists of different gases and fine particles, some from burning vegetation and others from burning structures, with the structures often having been built with asbestos, lead, and other toxins. This complex mixture of chemicals and substances can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems.
(f) Wildfire smoke inhalation can aggravate heart disease, permanently reduce lung function, and cause cancer or even premature death.
(g) Millions of Californians work outdoors and risk exposure to this hazard. While regulations exist to protect workers from hazards generally and harmful airborne substances specifically, these regulations do not adequately address the uniquely unpredictable nature of wildfire smoke. For example, the primary measurement of air quality remains the Air Quality Index (AQI), but AQI standards are not mentioned anywhere in the relevant regulations. Rather, the regulations rely on employers to individually decide whether or not a given exposure is “harmful” or one that calls for respirators to “protect the health of the employee.”
(h) As a result, outdoor workers often find themselves forced to work without effective respirators in extremely unhealthy conditions, risking a variety of severe health consequences as a condition of employment.
(i) Employers also face difficulty complying with existing regulations, given that relevant regulations require both medical evaluations and fit testing prior to respirator use, which is a potentially unrealistic requirement given that wildfires tend to occur without warning and given the speed with which fires can almost immediately cover large areas with harmful smoke.
(j) As serious as these catastrophic fires have become, all indications are that they will only get worse, given increasing developments in the wildland urban interface, climate change, and other factors, highlighting the need for urgent action to immediately protect workers.
(k) It is the intent of the Legislature that the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopt emergency regulations that allow a very limited and very temporary exemption from the medical evaluation and fit testing requirements when wildfire smoke causes AQI levels above a certain amount while clearly requiring employers to offer suitable respirators when this hazard is present as described in subdivision (b) of Section 6722 of the Labor Code.
(l) It is the intent of the Legislature that these emergency regulations balance the need for safety and health regulations at least as effective as federal standards with the need to adopt new regulations to address the unique circumstances created by wildfire smoke.

SEC. 2.

 Section 6722 is added to the Labor Code, to read:

 (a) (1) The standards board shall adopt, by June 13, 2019, regulations that require employers to make appropriate and effective respirators available to an outdoor worker on any day the outdoor worker could reasonably be expected to be exposed to harmful levels of smoke from wildfires, or burning structures due to a wildfire, while working.
(2) The adoption, amendment, repeal, or readoption of a regulation authorized by this section is deemed to address an emergency, for purposes of Sections 11346.1 and 11349.6 of the Government Code, and the standards board is hereby exempted for this purpose from the requirements of subdivision (b) of Section 11346.1 of the Government Code. For purposes of subdivision (e) of Section 11346.1 of the Government Code, the 180-day period, as applicable to the effective period of an emergency regulatory action and submission of specified materials to the Office of Administrative Law, is hereby extended to one year.
(b) The standards board shall require that Local Air Quality Index Measures (AQI) be used to determine when smoke from wildfires is expected to be harmful.
(c) The standards board shall not apply the regulations adopted under subdivision (a) to operations subject to the evaluation and review of Sections 3403 to 3411, inclusive, of Article 10.1 (commencing with Section 3401) of Group 2 of Subchapter 7 of Chapter 4 of Article 8 of Division 1 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations required pursuant to Section 147.4 of this code.
(d) The standards board may authorize temporary exceptions to subparagraph (B) or (C) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 5144 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, so long as the exemptions do not render Section 5144 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations less effective than Section 1910.134 of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
(e) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to authorize an employer to require an outdoor worker to work when otherwise prohibited by law or regulation.
SEC. 3.
 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.
SEC. 4.
 This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the California Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting the necessity are:
In order to immediately protect outdoor workers from extremely unhealthy conditions, which lead to a variety of severe health consequences, caused by catastrophic fires that occur without warning and almost immediately cover large areas with harmful smoke, it is necessary that this act take effect immediately.