Air quality is a regular concern in construction, but especially during wildfire season. Poor air quality minimizes your visibility, but it can also make you sick if you are exposed to it for long hours throughout the day. If you still have to work outside, even when the weather’s smoky, you need to protect yourself. Here are five ways you can manage air quality on the construction site.
Check the Forecast
If you’re not sure what the air quality is going to be like during the day, your best bet is to start by checking the forecast. Although weather forecasts usually focus on sun, temperature and humidity, the National Weather Service often includes details about the air quality as well. Pay attention to the progress of wildfires in your area, and make a plan for the days that you know the air quality will be particularly bad. In some cases, adjusting your schedule so that you can do outside work during times with better air quality can save you a lot of complication and discomfort.
Although much of your outdoor air quality is based on your general environment, the use of construction equipment can make the air quality around you even worse. For example, if you are running fuel-powered equipment, you will generate exhaust. As it accumulates, you may notice certain detrimental health effects. Proper ventilation is key, especially if you are doing work in a confined space. Limit your use of equipment that generates dust or fuel byproducts, wear proper protective equipment when you do, and ensure that every space gets proper ventilation.
Purchase Filtering Equipment
You are probably familiar with personal protective equipment (PPE) that construction workers use to protect themselves from hazardous substances on the job site. But you can also use PPE as a way to filter out smoke and particles in the natural air. The simplest tools at your disposal are an N95 mask and protective goggles. These tools are much more likely to be effective if you can get them fit-tested, which means confirming that they are actually providing a tight seal. When the air is particularly bad, you may choose to upgrade to equipment that provides a higher degree of filtration with cartridges that you can replace.
Provide Air Quality Break Areas
No one wants to work outside all day in poor air quality. At times, you might need to adjust the work you plan to do during the day to minimize exposure to the environment. On days when the air quality is moderate, you may be able to help by providing indoor break areas with improved air quality. Consider purchasing and using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, although you will need to replace the cartridge on a regular basis. Being able to take breaks inside and breathe generally clean air will make it easier to put a mask back on and be productive when you go back outside.
Work Inside When Needed
There will be moments where the air quality outside is so bad that you simply cannot get work done. If the visibility is low and the smoke in the air is high, you put yourself and your employees at risk for injuries and other health concerns. It is much better to spend a day working on tasks that you can complete in the shop and waiting for the air to clear, than it is to spend the entire day outside and feel too sick to work the next day. Keeping safe is the best way to ensure that your business can continue to operate.
Handling poor air quality is a common part of running a business in construction. For more information about how you can be a better contracting business owner, visit CSLS today!