Inclement Weather: Air Quality Issues

Update: September 13, 2020:

UO campuses are not in danger of fires currently burning in the Sate of Oregon. If a fire moves closer to a campus, official warnings and evacuation orders would be issued by emergency management systems and amplified by the UO Alert notification system. However, some buildings and activities may be temporarily impacted due to poor air quality. Use the links below for information, resources, and updates about how the wildfires burning in Oregon and along the West Coast are impacting the University of Oregon community.

Wildfire season in Oregon can negatively impact air quality as smoke levels increase. On such occasions, the university typically maintains regular operations with no change to work or class schedules. Standard procedures apply for weather-related notifications such as cancellation, delayed start, and early closure decisions should a change in normal operations be necessary.

Employee Guidance

Employees should communicate with their supervisor if they have concerns about their workspace or assignments during periods of low air quality.

Employees who miss work because of personal illness as a result of local air quality or because they must provide care for immediate family members who are ill, may use available sick leave as normal. Visit the time off webpage for more information about use of other leave.

Public health agencies may issue air quality advisories which recommend avoiding strenuous outdoor activities, or even staying indoors for the very old, very young and those with known lung conditions. Advisories may include information about the possible effectiveness of certain respirators (types P100 or N95) with proper fitting and use. The UO does not provide nor encourage the general use of these respirators except as required on the job. Anyone who voluntarily chooses to use a P100 or N95 respirator at work must first contact Environmental Health and Safety within Safety and Risk Services for required OSHA training. UO guidelines on wildfire smoke address the use of masks and respirators. Additional air quality information can be found on the Safety and Risk Services website.

Supervisor Guidance

  • When the Air Quality Index is higher than 150, employees should be moved indoors by providing duties inside campus buildings or by providing remote work options and may only work critical outdoor jobs with the use of respirators.
    If it is not possible to do either of these things, contact before sending employees home and before telling them there is no work.
  • Adjust assignments to minimize strenuous activity and outdoor exposure.
  • Allow for extra breaks and hydration.
  • If the work and equipment (such as with a laptop computer and mobile phone) allow, be flexible in work locations. Allow employees to work in a more comfortable building (like the EMU) or from home.

September 2020 Wildfire Smoke Information

The current combination of wildfires, wind, and high temperatures have created air quality conditions that result in public safety advisories and spur questions and concerns. The following information will advise and inform the UO community under the current conditions:

  • Many UO facilities maximize outside air intake, which is required by code (i.e. many of the science/research facilities, University Health, etc.) and aligns with COVID-19 recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the Oregon Health Authority. Due to these requirements campus air handling/HVAC systems will not be adjusted at this time.
  • Building HVAC system filters will prevent wildfire-related ash from depositing inside buildings. However, buildings may experience smoke-related nuisance odors and indoor respiratory irritants. Facilities Services and Environmental Health & Safety will continue to evaluate systems and replace air filters.
  • Additional air quality information can be found on the Safety and Risk Services website.


Please contact your direct supervisor or department director with any questions. Employee questions may also be directed to the Human Resources Service Center at 6-3159 or by email at Questions regarding safety can be directed to Safety and Risk Services at