Those of us who have visited and/or live in Hawaii have been horrified as we watched the recent wildfires on the islands of Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. The popular charming town of Lahaina on Maui has been devastated, hundreds of people have lost their homes, and sadly, dozens of people have lost their lives. A link is provided at the end of this safety tip if you’d like to join SCM in donating to the rescue and restoration efforts. To learn more about Hawaiian wildfires and wildfires in general, follow this link:
Watching the news about Hawaii reminds us of the smoke that filled the air following recent wildfires in Canada. A few years ago, the SCM team experienced a few days of a dark orange sky brought about by wildfires in Northern California. Fortunately, most of us could stay indoors during those days.
It is a strange feeling when you can see the air that you breathe, due to all the smoke particulates. Normally, we can breathe without thinking about it. It’s our bodies’ automatic response to draw in air to survive. But what happens when that air is contaminated?
Air is rarely without some particulates. Pollution affects many of us to varying degrees, depending on where you live. Our air quality is measured on an index that is calculated by a method developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An easy way to check the air quality where you live or work is to go online to AirNow.gov and enter the zip code, city, and/or state of where you want to check.
Without getting technical, the guideline is that any air quality that measures under 100 on the scale at AirNow.gov is considered good to moderate. Between 101 to 150, the air quality can be unhealthy for sensitive groups, like people with asthma or other breathing issues. Air quality measuring 151 or more is unhealthy. When the skies over SCM turned orange, the air quality measured well over 300.
How does this relate to safety?
You and/or your employees may have to work outdoors. You need to think about protecting yourself from harmful air contaminants before you can see what you are breathing. Here are some tips:
1. Ask employees to let you know if they have any conditions that would make breathing difficult when the air quality index is 101 to 150. Plan adjustments for them when working outdoors.
2. When the air quality reaches 151 to 500, either bring the work indoors or provide employees with respirators (N95 masks or better) to wear voluntarily.
3. If the air quality is bad, move work indoors or consider taking time off.
Plan ahead. Protect yourself from the air that you might be able to see.
How to donate to the Hawaii wildfire victims, from USA Today: