When large tech companies including Apple and Facebook announced this week that they’d be donating stockpiles of protective masks to health workers around the world, some people may have wondered why they had them in the first place.
Executives said they had them in storage because of the recent spate of wildfires in California. They were required to have them by law.
In 2019, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted a regulation forcing employers to provide respiratory equipment, including N95 masks, for workers when the Air Quality Index, or AQI, reaches unhealthy levels.
“Surgical masks or items worn over the nose and mouth such as scarves, T-shirts, and bandannas will not provide protection against wildfire smoke,” the rule said. “An N95 filtering facepiece respirator is the minimum level of protection for wildfire smoke.”