Wildfire safety tips at home and at work: How to stay safe

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Summer is forest fire season in Ontario

Forest fire

Infographic: Wildfire Smoke: A Concern for all Workers

During the summer in Ontario, there is a higher risk of forest fires. These fires can be very dangerous for homes and workplaces. If you see flames or smoke, call 911 if you’re south of the French and Mattawa rivers, or call 310-FIRE (3473) if you’re north of these rivers.

To stay safe from wildfires and the poor air quality they cause, follow these tips:

  1. Know workplace responsibilities: Employers must take reasonable steps to protect workers. This includes keeping them safe from the dangers of poor outdoor air quality during wildfires. They should use safety measures like equipment and safe practices to keep workers protected.

  2. Check the air quality: Although there aren’t specific rules about wildfires and outdoor air quality, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks sets standards. Look for the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to see how bad the air quality is. This will help you know what actions to take to stay safe.

  3. Keep indoor air clean: Poor outdoor air quality can also affect indoor workplaces, especially when wildfires are nearby. Employers should make sure that indoor air isn’t polluted by outdoor sources. They can do this by keeping doors and windows closed, using filters in the ventilation system, and limiting fresh air intake.

  4. Speak up if you feel unsafe: If you feel that your safety is at risk because of poor air quality at work, you have the right to refuse work. Tell your employer or supervisor about your concerns. They should investigate and fix the problem. You can contact the Ministry for help.

  5. Learn about health protection: It’s important to know how to protect yourself from the smoke caused by wildfires. Look for information from trusted sources like Environment and Climate Change Canada. They advise on how to minimize health risks from poor outdoor air quality. You may also need to prepare for evacuation.

  6. Use respirators properly: If you must work outside when the air quality is bad, a respirator can help. It filters out harmful particles and substances. But make sure you use it correctly and that it fits well. The BCCDC WildFire FactSheet on Face Masks has more detailed instructions.

  7. Consider your health: If you have any health conditions that can get worse because of poor air quality, talk to your doctor. They can tell you if you need any special accommodations at work. Employers have a responsibility to help workers with disabilities. You can learn more from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

  8. Employment rights during temporary closures: If your workplace closes temporarily because of poor air quality from wildfires, find out about your rights. Contact the Employment Standards Information Centre or the right authorities to understand what you’re entitled to in terms of pay and benefits during the closure.

  9. If you’re worried about your health and safety at work because of smoke, there are things you can do: First, talk to your supervisor or boss about your concerns. They should listen and try to help. If there’s a group at your workplace that deals with health and safety, like a joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative, you can also talk to them.

Remember, it’s important to speak up if you feel unsafe at work because of smoke or any other reasons.

By following these wildfire safety tips, you can protect yourself from the dangers of poor outdoor air quality caused by wildfires. Remember to stay informed, follow the guidelines, and keep yourself and others safe during these events.


Ontario industries required to evaluate operations for forest fire risk – WSN

Is your company prepared for the effects of wildfires? - Harvard Business Review

Forest fires and wildfire smoke - Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health

Forest fire info map – Ontario

Public Safety Canada Emergency PreparednessWildfires information

Guide to Wildfire Recovery – Canadian Red Cross

Smoke Forecast - Firesmoke.ca

Wildfire smoke, air quality and your health - Government of Canada