Lone Workers up in Smoke

THE DANGERS OF LOW AIR QUALITY AND HIGH HEAT FOR LONE WORKERS

Wildfire smoke

The province of BC is on fire, transforming the once idyllic landscape into a dry, dangerous region full of unseen risks. The combination of persistent smoke and a heatwave without an end in sight is one of the deadliest environmental combinations a Lone Worker can face.

One response to this climatological disaster took the form of civil servants sent directly to the streets to monitor and help at-risk individuals. But those same civic workers, out of visual and auditory range of their coworkers, become the very definition of Lone Workers. Outside for prolonged periods, exposed to poor air and extreme heat, they need to be protected. If a lone civic worker collapses somewhere just out of sight, how long until someone notices? 

Outside of the city, the problem is worsened; poor visibility makes every environment more dangerous, smoke reduces your lung capacity and can seriously affect your rate of fatigue, and prolonged heat can very quickly render you unconscious. Lone Workers can very quickly be overcome by this combination of environmental hazards. 

According to Health Canada, among those most susceptible to high heat are those working or exercising in the heat and individuals alone in un-air-conditioned homes. There’s no doubt that Lone Workers spending any amount of time in a vehicle would be at the same risk. 

There is a dangerous byproduct when extreme heat reacts with pollution and smoke: intense concentrations of ground-level ozone, and dangerous amounts of PM2.5; the name given to ultra-small particulate matter in the atmosphere. Lone Workers, even those indoors, run a severe risk of respiratory complications and even unconsciousness. Both Ozone and PM2.5 penetrate buildings at ground level easily, meaning doors and windows don’t offer protection.  

In situations like this, it’s recommended that Lone Workers use a system like SafetyLine to take extra precautions. How? By using shorter Check-in intervals and Checking-in more often, reporting any and all physical discomfort, and reporting all potentially health-related issues in their Voice App messages throughout their shift. 

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