Usually when we talk of air quality safety for backflow testers, it’s when we’re referencing testing in vaults. However, with 74 major wildfires burning on the western coast states right now, air quality is pretty awful over here. Walking outside to get the mail has my eyes watering – air quality is no joke!
Vaults and Confined Space Entry
If you think air quality in vaults isn’t something to be taken seriously, think again. In 1986, a backflow tester descended into a vault to test the backflow devices there, and tragically died due to the air quality. You can read the whole story here. This is why knowing confined-space procedures is so important! If you need more information on working in confined spaces, you can reference the CDC’s criteria via their pdf online. While the document is dated, the information is still pertinent today.
While the gasses in vaults and those near wildfires differ, the air quality is ultimately dangerous.
Here’s a glance at the air quality in Oregon right now. Yuck!
Tips for Working in the Field
If you have to be out in the field testing backflow devices and are in middle of these poor air quality areas, what can you do?
1. Consider wearing an air mask. Don’t skimp on this – paper and dusk masks are not sufficient for fine particulate matter. You’ll need to invest in a higher grade face mask, such as one that is N95 or higher.
2. If possible, schedule backflow devices to be tested that are indoors, such as the ones on soda machines, instead of irrigation devices. Spend as much time indoors.
3. If you start to feel tired or short of breath, stop what you’re doing, and go inside. If you’re experiencing breathing problems, seek help. Even for people with strong, healthy lungs can be negatively affected by low air quality, especially if you’re spending multiple days in it.
4. To lessen aggravation on your lungs, skip out on exercising outside will the air quality is bad. I’m shocked at how many runners and bicyclists I’ve seen exercising recently. With air like we have in Oregon right now, you’re not helping your body out by exposing it to outside air.
Finally, just a word of Thanks to the thousands of firefighters working around the clock to control these fires right now. It’s an incredibly difficult, exhausting job, and the C3 Team is so grateful to everyone who is out there working hard. To all the people out there fighting wildfires: Thank You!