Home Industry News Releases Napa Growers Employ Best Practices for Working in Smoky Conditions

Napa Growers Employ Best Practices for Working in Smoky Conditions


Below is a summary of guidelines and protocol provided by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Napa County Ag Commissioner, and Napa County Public Health. Napa growers are committed to following these guidelines and are proactively accommodating individual employee needs to ensure their safety, health, and well-being.

Some growers are completing their 2017 harvest. Prior to Sunday, October 8th when the fires started, 90% of Napa’s grapes were picked; therefore, the percentage of fruit remaining on the vines at this time is minimal. The hanging fruit being picked is mostly thicker skinned varieties that are best suited to endure harsher conditions.  Currently, many growers are focused on gaining access to their vineyards located in evacuated or restricted areas hoping to survey site conditions.

OSHA Notice on Worker Health and Safety in Wildfire Regions

Employers with operations exposed to wildfire smoke must consider taking appropriate measures as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Program under Title 8 section 3203 of the California Code of Regulations and as required under section 5141 (Control of Harmful Exposure to Employees). Those measures include:

  • Contact the CAL OSHA consultation office at 510-622-2891 before you and your employees start work in conditions that may be hazardous
  • Engineering controls whenever feasible (for example, using a filtered ventilation system in indoor work areas)
  • Administrative controls if practicable (for example, limiting the time that employees work outdoors)
  • Providing workers with respiratory protective equipment, such as disposable filtering facepieces (dust masks).  
    • To filter out fine particles, respirators must be labeled N-95, N-99, N-100, R-95, P-95, P-99, or P-100, and must be labeled approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
    • Approved respiratory protective equipment is necessary for employees working in outdoor locations designated by local air quality management districts as “Very Unhealthy,” “Unhealthy” or “Hazardous.”
      • It takes more effort to breathe through a respirator, and it can increase the risk of heat stress. Frequent breaks are advised. Workers feeling dizzy, faint or nauseous are advised to go to a clean area, remove the respirator and seek medical attention.
      • Respirators should be discarded if they become difficult to breathe through or if the inside becomes dirty.
      • Instructions for proper mask usage in English and Spanish can be found here.

To read the OSHA notice in full in English, CLICK HERE.
To read the notice in Spanish, CLICK HERE

Requesting to Work in an Evacuated or Restricted Areas

As of Saturday, October 14, the Napa County Ag Commissioner’s Office has set the following protocol for working harvest and/or other ag related activities in evacuated or restricted areas:

  • Prior approval is needed from Incident Command personnel
  • To obtain approval, contact the Napa County Ag Commissioner’s Office at [email protected], by phone at 707-253-4357 or by fax at 707-253-4881 and provide the following information:
    •  Name of company
    • Contact name with phone number and e-mail
    • Type of activity requested
    • Specific location of property
    • Date and time access needed
    • Duration of time access needed
    • Approximate number of employees involved

Note: Information may be left as a voice message if not answered directly by office personnel.

Your request will initially be reviewed by Ag Commissioner staff and conveyed to Incident Command. Incident Command personnel will then make the determination if access to specific properties can be granted.  Due to the rapidly changing nature of the fires, requests can only be made within 48 hours of desired access time.

If access is granted, Ag Commissioner staff will contact the grower, rancher, or winery personnel of the determination and will provide specifics on the access.  Incident Command personnel will then contact the road closure personnel and notify them whether or not access has been granted.
After access authorization has been granted, the person requesting access will be required to come by the Napa County Ag Commissioner’s Office, located at 1710 Soscol Ave, Napa, and be issued a permit between the hours of 6am and 10pm.  We will have staff available to assist you.
The permit will contain the information requested and be valid for a 12 hour period commencing with the start of the critical and essential business activity allowed.

A new and separate permit will need to be issued for each day or twelve hour period due to possible changes in life safety and fire conditions. This means coming to the Ag Commissioner’s Office for the new permit each time.
The permit will also be a release of liability, acknowledgement of inherent risk, and notify the permittee that any activity other than that listed is prohibited. Stopping or visiting any other location will be considered trespass into restricted areas, etc.
A wet signature is required and the permit will be embossed. The permit must be presented at the controlled access point to gain entry to the restricted area.

Reminder: According to CalFire officials, grapes that have been contacted by flame retardant are not safe for humans and should not be harvested. 

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