Prepare for wildfire season with these resources

July 21, 2022 | News

Hot summer weather brings increased potential for wildfires, resulting in poor air quality. Poor air quality impacts all British Columbians but can be particularly difficult for seniors, those that need to work in smoky conditions, and those with underlying health conditions, including COVID-19.
Good preparation is all the more critical in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Finding cleaner air is the best way to protect your health from wildfire smoke. However, this may not always be possible, so care operators must prepare for wildfire season by reviewing their emergency safety plans and procedures.

Heat and smoke may also increase the likelihood that personal protective equipment, particularly masks and respirators, becomes damp or soiled. If you must wear a mask at work, follow guidelines and change your cover if needed. Learn more about the limitations and risks of mask use and wildfire smoke. WorkSafeBC also provides wildfire FAQs.

Emergencies such as wildfires or floods may also require the temporary evacuation of staff and residents. Evacuations can be stressful and often happen quickly when a threat is incoming. It is essential to prepare everyone for these situations to follow safe work practices such as safe handling and infection prevention and control during these particularly challenging circumstances.

Proactive safety considerations for managers may include:

  • Assess your written safety plans and procedures, including evacuation requirements for workers, residents/clients, visitors, and other compounding safety protocols (infection prevention and control and safe handling). Check out WorkSafeBC’s emergency planning checklist for more information on evacuations.
  • Monitor provincial dashboards for active wildfires and air quality in your area.
  • Review the maintenance of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to ensure they are in good working order. Find resources on ventilation for respiratory protection on our website.
  • Temporary use of portable air cleaners with HEPA filtration that are the appropriate size for the space. Reschedule outdoor activities. See guidance around portable air filtration devices. The BC Centre for Disease Control has information on portable air cleaners for wildfire smoke.
  • Increased monitoring for heat-related illness and the ill effects of smoke inhalation. Hydration and cooling-off strategies are recommended. Check out our hot weather safety poster.
  • Increased availability and monitoring of personal protective equipment stockpiles, particularly masks and respirators that may require more frequent changing.

If you would like support with emergency preparedness planning, please reach out to our health and safety consultant, Jennifer: