Canadian Wildfire Smoke Highlights Need to Protect Outdoor Workers

Wildfire smoke

Earlier this month, smoke from wildfires in Quebec and Northern Ontario, Canada, caused elevated levels of air pollution in many portions of the Northeastern United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the air quality is of particular concern to those who need to work outdoors.

“Wildfire smoke exposure can create major health hazards for outdoor workers. These hazards can be reduced with knowledge, safe work practices, and appropriate personal protective equipment,” said Doug Parker, OSHA assistant secretary. “I urge all employers to have plans and preparations in place to protect workers by preventing or minimizing exposure to hazardous air quality.”

The most significant hazard from wildfire smoke, OSHA reports, is exposure to particulate matter—tiny particles of partially burned material less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. These particles can cause serious health problems, including lung, heart, and kidney disease, by entering a person’s lungs and bloodstream. Workers exposed to smoke-polluted air can also experience heat stress, as well as eye and respiratory tract irritation.

OSHA recommends taking the following measures to help outdoor workers reduce their exposure to smoke:

  • Frequent monitoring of air quality conditions using a source such as the EPA’s AirNow
  • Relocating or rescheduling work tasks to smoke-free areas
  • Reducing levels of physical activity, especially strenuous and heavy work
  • Encouraging or even requiring workers to take breaks in smoke-free places
  • Making accommodations for employees to work inside with proper HVAC systems and high efficiency air filters.

To learn more about monitoring outdoor air quality, read Website Reveals the Real-Time Quality of Your Area’s Air.

For more information on air quality and wildfire smoke, check out this Cleaning Industry Alert video below.

Patricia LaCroix

Patricia LaCroix is the associate editor of Cleanfax. She has a degree in communications with a concentration in journalism. Over the course of her four decades in publishing, Patricia has worn many hats, serving as writer, editor, and graphic designer for both print and online media.

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