Would You Enter a Toxic Atmosphere Unprotected?

The two firefighters in the picture above are participating in a drill simulating a leak in a one-ton chlorine container. We used white theatrical smoke for the exercise, but a real chlorine leak produces a yellowish green, pungent, choking cloud.

Choking cloud of chlorine

Chlorine is immediately dangerous to life and health at 10 parts per million. Also, hydrochloric acid forms when Chlorine contacts moisture. Considering the average human body contains between 45-75% water, exposure to chlorine is not good.

That is why firefighters must wear Level A, fully encapsulated, chemical protective clothing, with a self-contained breathing apparatus. Only a fool would walk into a cloud of chlorine unprotected.

The toxic work environment

Common sense dictates that you would not walk into an environment of chlorine unprotected. If exposed, you would either quickly turn around or breathe in enough to make you collapse.

Yet how many people walk into a toxic work environment every day? Business owners, supervisors, bosses, and managers (notice I did not write leaders) who berate, yell, bully, micromanage, constantly criticize, and find fault with everything create these toxic environments.

Those same people then turn around and wonder why employees are disengaged, apathetic, and resentful.

Making the change

It isn’t practical for an employee to walk into work wearing a Level A suit, so what are your options when entering the toxic work environment?

  • Become numb to the situation, do nothing, and experience frustration, anger, and declining physical and mental health.
  • Seek another job (which is not easy to do, especially in the emergency services careers).
  • Have the courage to confront the situation in a civil manner.

There isn’t enough room in this blog to address the proper way to confront the problem. However, feel free to email me at [email protected] to discuss the third bullet point.

Remember, life is full of choices, but we cannot choose the consequences, and those consequences may be your health and well-being.

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