Wildfire Smoke is a Developing U.S. Hazard

Recent Canadian wildfires have sent massive amounts of smoke across the Midwest and into New England, and even into Southeast US. What was once considered a West Coast problem has now become a potential threat to workers across the country.

Smokey conditions in June caused ‘code red’ air quality alerts across the United States.

Five Ways to Protect Workers from Wildfire Smoke

What can employers do to protect workers from exposure to wildfire smoke?

Federal OSHA suggests:

  1. Frequent monitoring of air quality conditions using a source such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow.gov.
  2. Relocating or rescheduling work tasks to smoke-free areas wherever
  3. Reducing levels of physical activity, especially strenuous and heavy work
  4. Requiring and encouraging workers to take breaks in smoke-free places whenever
  5. Creating accommodations for employees to work inside with proper HVAC systems and high efficiency air filters, whenever possible.

Federal OSHA’s wildfire webpage [www.osha.gov/wildfires] offers further guidance on how employers can develop a wildfire smoke safety plan.

Think Respirator, Not Dust Mask

Paper masks do not protect our lungs from the smaller particles found in wildfire smoke. The more appropriate step would be to follow the NIOSH approved list for respirators, including N95’s and P100’s.

Employers should also stay mindful of the OSHA standard for respirator use, 1910.134.

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