Smoke forces City to cut back outdoor work

By Thia James
July 1, 2015 - 6:43am

The thick smoke filling Prince Albert’s air is leading the City to scale back on its work outdoors.

It plans to pull its outdoor staff inside in an effort to safeguard their health while the smoke from northern wildfires continues to persist.

City manager Jim Toye noted Prince Albert’s air quality index is at plus 12, which is greater than the ‘high’ range of seven to 10.

“So, we’re a very high risk here in Prince Albert,” Toye said. “So, when we look at that, we make sure we take into consideration our staff and our public.”

City officials – including department directors – met on Tuesday morning to discuss how to proceed with work as the smoke lingers over Prince Albert. This decision doesn’t have an effect on projects such as the paving program. In such a case, the decision would be made by the contractor.

City staff that would be doing strenuous work outdoors will likely be doing something different on Tuesday, Toye said.

“We have other areas of our business such as City Hall, police, fire, the water treatment plant, wastewater treatment plant, sanitation, they’re all in buildings or all in vehicles. And so, those works will continue. It’s individuals that were working outside.”

Among those affected would be those who work in the parks department cutting grass, and trimming trees, or those in the public works painting lines.

“Anyone who is in that situation, we will probably reposition them to something else that’s going to be indoors.”

The City had spoken with the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region’s medical health officer, Dr. Khami Chokani about masks for workers. But the most effective masks are ones with seals and filters.

“So we don’t think that we’ll be going to that stage, we want to make sure our staff are safe, but that would mean that we would remove them from the outdoors.”

The City of Prince Albert isn’t the only employer trying to limit its employees’ time outdoors.

A spokesperson for Canada Post said it has implemented “partial” delivery service in Prince Albert. Deliveries will be made to apartments and businesses, but not houses, while the smoky conditions continue.

The postal service will not be making deliveries to evacuated communities, and will be holding those residents’ mail for the time being.

Elsewhere in the province, delivery will continue, as long the smoke doesn’t pose a risk to Canada Post staff.

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