Wildfire smoke exposures are creating hazards in many areas not accustomed to dealing with these types of exposures. FCA wants to ensure our members are aware of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) resources for Wildfire Smoke and Outdoor Work. Contractors can leverage these resources if they haven’t had much experience dealing with this particular hazard. Read on for NIOSH’s recommendations for employers.
Employers and workers should prepare for and plan to implement procedures to reduce smoke exposures when necessary. If workers must work in areas with high levels of smoke (especially for long periods), or if a worker is sensitive to wildfire smoke and feels their health or safety is negatively impacted by smoke exposure, the following steps can be implemented to help reduce smoke exposure:
- Frequently monitor air quality conditions in the area by visiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) US Fire and Smoke Map or the state health department’s air quality website. This map provides the Air Quality Index (AQI) for a specific location and provides a range of air quality from good to hazardous. The AQI is the EPA’s color-coded tool for communicating air quality to the public.
- Relocate or reschedule work tasks to smoke-free or less smoky areas or times of the day.
- Reduce levels of physical activity when possible, especially strenuous and heavy work.
- Require and encourage workers to take frequent breaks in places that are free from smoke.
- Limit the worker’s smoke exposure by making accommodations for that worker to perform his or her duties indoors or in a location that reduces exposure to smoke, if possible. To create an indoor environment that reduces exposure to wildfire smoke and protects the occupants, it is important for employers and building managers to:
- Install air cleaners equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or electrostatic precipitators.
- Ensure that windows and other building openings such as loading docks and bays are kept closed to reduce overall smoke exposure inside.
- Operate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in the re-circulate setting or temporarily reduce the amount of outdoor air supplied to the building.
- Install the highest efficiency filters recommended by the designer or manufacturer of the HVAC system.