Wildfires are termed to be unplanned fires that occur in an urban-wildland interface that poses a drastic health impact on the workers mainly outdoors due to huge smoke exposure. It impacts in terms of respiratory, cardiovascular, and mental health issues among people at the workplace, mainly aged workers having less tolerance against environmental conditions. In recent years, these wildfires are frequently occurring in the United States that reflects an obvious health hazard among outdoor workers. This led to arousing the need of strategic measures in the future to cope with this alarming situation and save workers from this health risk.
Generally, the outdoor workers involving those working in responding to wildfires are mainly affected by wildfires both indirectly in terms of fire or smoke or disperse airborne particles, and directly in a form of fire themselves. Their main danger is through Particulate Matter PM2.5 that affects eyes, and throat leading to coughing and headache. Those working to extinguish fires are at the risk of interacting with risks of re-ignition of fire, ash, electric shocks, soot, pipe leaks containing flammable gases, falling objects, chemicals, dust, and asbestos. Although, workers in offices and commercial buildings or offices near it also face this risk, as it poses a hazard with bad air quality in a way affects the nearby workers and buildings without ventilation system.
- In the past few years, there have been significant efforts being made, including the wildfire air quality response program in an area of more than 45 million with smoke outlook warnings.
- California OSHA made an emergency regulation that is basically for the exposure of outdoor workers termed as protection from wildfires smoke.
- The OSHA has recommended that workers have an evacuation plan to avoid injuries and PPE in the hierarchy of control. It includes training, communication, intrusion, identifying and control of harmful chemicals, and sampling requirements to be fulfilled.
- For outdoor workers, employers should provide portable drinking water, shade for preventing their health, and resting time.
- Employers should provide immediate support to the workers by coordinating them and providing filtered ventilation systems in the indoor workplace, and reduce time span for the outdoor workplace, and provide filtering face masks to them.
- Research on the causes, impacts, frequency, and track the future probability that may lead to the development of advanced techniques for worker’s safety.
- EPA has designed a framework to follow in a way of reducing exposure to wildfire smoke, selecting the correct masks, and spreading awareness among your working community.
The US is frequently facing wildfires that reflect the threat to worker’s health and safety, for which measures are continuously being taken. OSHA has provided a brief guideline to workers to follow in all cases, including the training videos for workers, smoke protective measures, N95 masks, ventilation system for indoor, a fact sheet for employers and workers, evacuation zones guide, fire cleanup safety measures, the rebuild up after fires with guidance of construction in the flammable area.