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WorkSafeBC increase in calls as concerns rise over Metro Vancouver air quality, working outdoors

Last Updated Sep 16, 2020 at 9:46 am PST

FILE - Smoky air can be seen blanketing the region in Delta. (Tim James, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

Calls are up to WorkSafeBC over concerns about Metro Vancouver's air quality

WorkSafeBC recommends people try to work indoors whenever they can

Those who are unable to work inside are told to avoid prolonged physical exertion outside

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There are still concerns for many people who need to work outside, despite the air clearing up a bit around Metro Vancouver.

While the current air quality map for the region shows improvement in places like Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, WorkSafeBC says it’s been fielding an increase in calls related to conditions and working outside.

“Just questions about what people should do in this type of situation, where they could find more information, primarily, the bulk of the questions that are coming in,” Barry Nakahara, senior manager, Prevention Field Services, explains.

He says where it’s possible, people should shift work inside. However, for those whose livelihood is in the outdoors, Nakahara says people should try to avoid prolonged physical exertions.

“Because when you’re working hard, you’re intaking as much as 20 times more air than you normally would, which, you know, the smoke goes along with that, so, it does increase some of the risk when you’re working harder outdoors,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“So, the advice would be, if you have to work outdoors, try to plan the work, so maybe the more strenuous stuff gets pushed aside for now and you can do lighter stuff,” Nakahara suggests, adding any opportunity to work indoors should be taken.

Employers should be working to address any air quality concerns that come up from employees, he notes.

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That includes following air quality advisories as much as possible.

“We don’t [put out] a lot of direct regulation as it pertains to environmental wildfire smoke with WorkSafeBC, so we end up defaulting to what has been put out in terms of the environmental standards,” Nakahara says.

Meteorologist Russ Lacate expects more marginal improvements in local Air Quality Health Index readings, adding visibility should also improve Wednesday afternoon, too.

Rain and wind in the forecast for Thursday and Friday are also expected to help improve conditions, making way for a “fresher” weekend.