Every year, California is faces increasingly damaging wildfire events. In 2018, Northern California and the Central Valley saw drastic increases in air pollutants during the height of the July and August fires, while Southern California also experienced an increase in air pollution in August. Air quality in Northern and Central California remained poor until mid-September 2018, when fire activity was drastically diminished. During the November Camp Fire, air quality diminished again, with the majority of the Bay being subjected to air quality indexes (AQIs) of 200 and above, in the “unhealthy” region.

The City of Santa Monica requested assistance in the assessment of risks for employees who conduct their work outdoors and may be subject to wildfire smoke exposure while conducting their work. The purpose of this program was to outline guidelines for monitoring and controlling employee exposure to air contaminants associated with wildfire smoke. Atlas was retained by City of Santa Monica to develop this program.

The wildfire smoke exposure monitoring program (WSEMP) provides health and safety guidelines for City of Santa Monica employees conducting work that may occur outdoors in areas impacted by wildfire smoke. The plan was based on current State and Federal regulations, studies related to wildfire smoke exposure, and general industrial hygiene practices that have been proven effective through experience.

The plan outlined employee training requirements, engineering and administrative controls to reduce potential employee exposure, air monitoring criteria for particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide, respiratory and personal protective equipment requirements, and other relevant guidelines. The exposure monitoring criteria were developed to correlate to air quality data published by government agencies so that local monitoring could be compared and integrated into air quality forecasts and real-time data.