Proposal would step up Utah’s game on teleworking during bad air days

Pedestrians cross 300 West in Salt Lake City with smog visible in the background in 2015. A bill working its way through the state Capitol would step up Utah’s game on teleworking during bad air days.

Pedestrians cross 300 West in Salt Lake City with smog visible in the background in 2015. A bill working its way through the state Capitol would step up Utah’s game on teleworking during bad air days. | Ravell Call, Deseret News

Unhealthy pollution, bad weather could mean work from home for state employees

SALT LAKE CITY — Unhealthy air clogged with pollutants can be a barrier to good health, but it just could be the springboard for more flexibility among Utah government employees to work from home when pollution reaches extreme levels.

The Wasatch Front’s episodic winter inversions packed with fine particulate pollution, or PM2.5, and high ozone days in the summer would be the trigger for eligible workers to participate in a “surge telework” program under a measure proposed by Sen. Daniel McKay, R-Riverton.

SB15 unanimously passed the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Monday and goes to the full House for further consideration.

Supporters of the measure say the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year aptly illustrated during shutdowns what type of impact fewer vehicles on the road have on levels of air pollution coming from tailpipes.

A couple of studies have already looked at the correlating decrease in pollution as the state struggled with massive lockdowns to help stem the spread of the deadly virus.

McKay’s bill directs the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget to coordinate with state agencies to identify those workers who may be eligible to participate in the “surge telework” program on bad air days or under other special circumstances, such as extreme weather delivering heavy snowfall or high wind.

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The state of Utah implemented a pilot program in 2018 involving 136 employees across four state agencies: the Department of Administrative Services; the Division of Purchasing; the Division of Technology Services; and the Utah Department of Human Resource Management.

What officials learned is that worker productivity among those employees shot up 23% and the program eliminated 273 pounds of vehicle emissions during the pilot period.

A year later, the state moved to expand the program for another 2,500 workers.

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Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

      

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