Wildfire Air Quality Resource for Supervisors

With the air quality index (AQI) in many parts of Minnesota often hovering in unhealthy ranges due to wildfire particulates and high levels of ozone, the University felt it was important to develop a plan to modify campus operations due to poor air quality if necessary.

As a result, the Weather Thresholds Appendix of the University’s Campus and Building Closing Policy was amended and University and campus leaders will consult on steps to modify campus operations if the AQI is predicted to be Very Unhealthy (201-300) or Hazardous (301-500). This consultation will happen as far in advance as possible, and will be communicated to the affected campuses similarly to when we make a weather closure announcement. 

Steps for supervisors

However, the AQI may show that conditions are unhealthy for certain populations, but not so unhealthy that the University makes a decision to reduce operations. As such, there are protective measures you can implement for those who work outdoors, that may reduce employee exposure to poor air quality conditions:

  • If possible, consider reducing or rescheduling outdoor operations.
  • If outside work is necessary, reduce employee levels of physical activity, especially strenuous and heavy work if possible.
  • Encourage employees to take more breaks and avoid intense activities to reduce exposure. Sensitive and more exposed individuals should avoid prolonged or vigorous activities and consider shortening, rescheduling, or moving outdoor events inside if possible. 
  • In vehicles, use the cabin air filter and maintain all windows and openings closed while driving or taking breaks.
  • Provide or allow the use of N95 respirators for voluntary use, when not otherwise required. When allowing respirators for voluntary use, you must provide employees with the advisory information in Appendix D of OSHA’s Respirator Protection Standard. University of Minnesota employees must review this information by completing the Voluntary Use Respiratory Protection (UHS516) module on Training Hub.

For more information and resources, please visit Health, Safety, and Risk Management (HSRM), or contact HSRM at (612) 626-6002 or [email protected] for additional guidance if your departments or teams routinely work outside.

Further resources