A member of our Health & Safety team, Annette Alexander, provides useful information on health precautions that can be taken at work to protect employees from bushfire smoke.
Bushfire smoke can adversely affect air quality as it produces fine smoke particles which are known to affect our breathing system. The smaller or finer the particles, the deeper they go into the lungs.
These particles can cause a variety of health problems, such as itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation, runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis. The smoke particles can also aggravate existing lung conditions, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.
Symptoms can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with the above conditions need to be vigilant with their treatment programs.
Workers with asthma or a lung condition who develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, should follow their asthma or COPD action plan and seek medical advice if symptoms don’t settle.
Healthy adults generally find that any symptoms they have developed during a bushfire event clear after the smoke disappears.
The air quality index (AQI) is an index for reporting daily and hourly air quality. It is an indication of how clean or polluted the air is in areas across Australia. The AQI is a quick and easy tool to inform you about:
Each state and territory has a website which provides regular updates on air quality including toxic pollutants and fine particles. Click on the following links for further information.
The following precautions can help you minimise adverse effects of bushfire smoke for workers:
Reference: NSW Government – Environment Dept. 10/12/2019
For more information on this topic, for or for any other workplace matter, please contact Ai Group's Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77.