Tips to Stay Safe Working Outdoors During Poor Air Quality Caused by Wildfires

Approximately 87 million people are at risk for poor air quality due to smoke from the Canadian wildfires with Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis among the top four cities with the worst air quality in the world according to  Wildfires not only pose a significant threat to our environment and wildlife but also to our health. The smoke generated from these fires often leads to poor air quality, which can have detrimental effects, especially for those who work outdoors. It’s crucial to take the necessary precautions and prioritize your safety if you find yourself in such conditions. Here are some essential tips on how to stay safe while working outdoors when air quality is poor due to wildfires.


Stay informed and monitor air quality:

Keep track of local air quality reports and weather forecasts regularly. Numerous smartphone applications and websites provide real-time air quality index updates, allowing you to plan your workday accordingly.


Limit outdoor exposure and reschedule activities:

Whenever possible, try to schedule your outdoor tasks during periods when the air quality is expected to be better, such as early mornings or evenings when temperatures are generally lower. Reduce the duration of outdoor work and take frequent breaks in shaded or well-ventilated areas to mitigate exposure to harmful pollutants.


Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE):

Ensure that you wear the proper personal protective equipment while working in smoky or hazardous environments. High-quality dust masks, with a rating of N95 or higher, can offer effective protection against microscopic particles in the air. Additionally, safety goggles or glasses can safeguard your eyes from irritants present in smoke. Consult with your employer or local authorities for recommended PPE and procedures.


Stay hydrated and maintain good health:

Poor air quality can exacerbate respiratory problems and cause other health issues. It’s crucial to stay hydrated to keep the respiratory tract moist and function properly. Additionally, maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can help enhance your overall respiratory and immune system resilience, reducing the risk of complications caused by exposure to smoke.


Create a safe indoor space:

If possible, work indoors or in enclosed spaces with proper air filtration systems. Ensure that windows and doors are tightly sealed to prevent smoke from entering. If this is not feasible, consider creating a makeshift clean area, properly ventilated with fans or air purifiers, or use respiratory protection in conjunction with working outdoors.


Be cautious with physical exertion:

Reduced air quality can strain your respiratory system, making intense physical exertion more challenging. Avoid heavy exertion or activities that may cause heavy breathing, such as running or lifting heavy weights. If you experience symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, or chest pain, immediately stop physical activities and seek medical assistance.


Know the warning signs and seek medical help if needed:

Be aware of the symptoms associated with exposure to poor air quality, such as coughing, wheezing, irritated eyes, sore throat, or difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important not to ignore them. Consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment if necessary.


Stay updated on evacuation orders and emergency protocols:

In extreme cases, wildfires may prompt evacuation orders or present immediate dangers to outdoor workers. Stay informed about emergency protocols in your area and regularly review your employer’s evacuation plans. Always follow official instructions and evacuate promptly if required.


While many states in the U.S. are experiencing intense wildfire smoke from numerous wildfires in Central Canada, being prepared and educated about mitigating the risks associated with poor air quality is crucial for outdoor workers. Prioritizing your safety and well-being by employing these tips will ensure that you can continue working while minimizing the potential health hazards caused by wildfires and their resulting smoke. Stay informed, take necessary precautions, and protect yourself during these challenging conditions.

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