As the wildfire season runs it’s course across British Columbia and Alberta, it’s important to be aware of the impact that smoky and hazy conditions can have on your team. Below are just some of the symptoms that workers may experience:
- Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat
- Worsening allergies
- Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and chest tightness
- Increased mucous production
- Increased risk of heat stress or heat exhaustion
- Increased incidences of absenteeism
- Inability to keep up the usual pace/speed of work
- Decreased efficiency and accuracy
OTHER AUXILIARY ISSUES WORKERS MAY FACE:
- Transportation Issues: Traffic speed may be affected due to poor visibility, so you may see an increase of late arrivals from your team whether they drive or take transit.
- Limited Access to Medication: Pharmacies often struggle to keep up with filling prescriptions for inhalers and other medications, so people may experience more intense symptoms of existing lung conditions.
- Schools and Day-care Closures: Institutions may close because of air quality concerns or proximity to wildfires themselves, leaving parents scrambling to make alternate childcare arrangements.
- Vulnerable Populations: Children, seniors, and pregnant women are more affected by wildfire smoke, so your workers may need to take time away from work to take care of impacted family members.
WHO IS PARTICULARLY AT RISK?
- Outdoor workers (or those who work in warehouses with transport doors open)
- Labourers doing heavy or repetitive lifting
- People with diabetes and asthma are particularly at risk of experiencing more severe reactions
WorkSafe BC has outlined some measures you can take to minimize worker exposure during the wildfire season, for both outdoor and indoor work sites.
WILDFIRE SMOKE AND OUTDOOR WORK
- Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors. Stay indoors with the windows closed.
- Reduce outdoor physical activity or exertion.
- Use a properly fit-tested, certified N95 half-face respirator to reduce exposure to smoke.
WILDFIRE SMOKE AND INDOOR WORK
- Inspect the HVAC system to make sure it is working properly.
- Check the HVAC system’s air filters to ensure they are clean and are not damaged, dislodged, or leaking around the edges.
- Temporarily reduce the intake of outdoor air. This should only be done in consultation with a qualified HVAC technician or ventilation engineer.
- Reduce indoor particle levels in small areas by using individual portable air cleaners equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters or electrostatic precipitators.
Keeping workers safe should always be a priority, but extreme conditions like wildfires require extra precautions. Follow the tips above to ensure your team stays healthy and safe on the job site.
ABL is a staffing agency specializing in filling general labour temporary jobs, including packaging jobs and warehouse jobs. Contact us today to find the right staff for your needs!
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