7 Summer Safety Tips to Protect Outdoor Employees

1.  WORKING IN THE SUMMER HEAT - WATER, REST, SHADE

Heat-related illnesses can be deadly.  Thousands become sick every year and many die due to preventable heat-related illnesses.  With summer temperatures rising, now is the best time to prepare for working outdoors in excessive heat by following a few simple steps.

HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS: KNOW THE SIGNS

It's important to know the signs of heat-related illness—acting quickly can prevent more serious medical conditions and may even save lives.

  • Heat Stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include: confusion, fainting, seizures, very high body temperature and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating. CALL 911 if a coworker shows signs of heat stroke.
  • Heat Exhaustion is also a serious illness. Symptoms include: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst and heavy sweating. Heat fatigue, and heat rash are less serious, but they are still signs of too much heat exposure.

If you or a coworker has symptoms of heat-related illness, tell your supervisor right away. If you can, move the person to a shaded area loosen his/her clothing, give him/her water (a little at a time), and cool him/her down with ice packs or cool water.

TO PREVENT HEAT ILLNESS:  WATER, REST, SHADE

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Rest in the shade to cool down.
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
  • Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers.
  • Acclimate – "easy does it" on your first days of work; be sure to get used to the heat and allow yourself to build up a tolerance. Not being used to the heat is a big problem.  Many people who die from heat stress are either new to working in the heat or returning from a break.  If a worker has not worked in hot weather for a week or more, their body needs time to adjust.

2.  PREVENTING INSECT BITES

Use Insect Repellent
Use EPA-registered insect repellents that contain at least 20% DEET (products include Cutter Backwoods and Off! Deep Woods) for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs. Other repellents protect against mosquitoes but may not be effective against ticks or other bugs:

  • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin); products include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD); products include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
  • IR3535; products include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart

Find the EPA-registered insect repellent that is right for you. The effectiveness of insect repellents that are not registered with the EPA, including some natural repellents, is not known. For more information, see the EPA’s website.

When using insect repellent, follow the instructions on the package and reapply as directed:

  • In general, higher percentages of the active ingredient provide longer-lasting protection. However, this increase in protection time maximizes at about 50% DEET.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply it first, let it dry, and then apply repellent. Do not use products that contain both sunscreen and repellent.
  • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

Consider using clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) that are treated with permethrin (an insecticide). You can buy pre-treated clothes or treat your own clothes. If treating items yourself, follow instructions carefully. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
*Insect repellent brand names are provided for your information only. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services cannot recommend or endorse any name-brand products.

Cover Exposed Skin

As much as possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat. Tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks for maximum protection. Some bugs, such as tsetse flies, can bite through thin fabric.

3.  Spider Bite Prevention

  • Be aware of placing unprotected hands or body parts in areas where spiders live (i.e. water meter cans). Visually inspect the area thoroughly before placing hands in the space.
  • Inspect or shake out any clothing, shoes, towels, or equipment before use.
  • Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, hat, gloves, and boots when handling stacked or undisturbed piles of materials.
  • Minimize the empty spaces between stacked materials.
  • Remove and reduce debris and rubble from around the outdoor work areas.
  • Trim or eliminate tall grasses from around outdoor work areas.
  • Store apparel and outdoor equipment in tightly closed plastic bags.
  • Keep your tetanus boosters up-to-date (every 10 years). Spider bites can become infected with tetanus spores.

First Aid

Workers should take the following steps if they are bitten by a spider:

  • Stay calm. Identify the type of spider if it is possible to do so safely. Identification will aid in medical treatment.
  • Wash the bite area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to the bite area to reduce swelling.
  • Elevate bite area if possible.
  • Do not attempt to remove venom.
  • Notify your supervisor.
  • Immediately seek professional medical attention.

4.  Sunburn

Sunburn is an often painful sign of skin damage from spending too much time outdoors without wearing a protective sunscreen. Years of overexposure to the sun lead to premature wrinkling, aging of the skin, age spots, and an increased risk of skin cancer. In addition to the skin, eyes can get burned from sun exposure. Sunburned eyes become red, dry, and painful, and feel gritty. Chronic exposure of eyes to sunlight may cause pterygium (tissue growth that leads to blindness), cataracts, and perhaps macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.

Symptoms

Unlike a thermal burn, sunburn is not immediately apparent. Symptoms usually start about 4 hours after sun exposure, worsen in 24-36 hours, and resolve in 3-5 days.

Symptoms may include:

  • Red, warm, and tender skin
  • Swollen skin
  • Blistering
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

The pain from sunburn is worse 6-48 hours after sun exposure. Skin peeling usually begins 3-8 days after exposure.

First Aid

There is no quick cure for minor sunburn:

  • Symptoms can be treated with aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to relieve pain and headache and reduce fever.
  • Drinking plenty of water helps to replace fluid losses.
  • Cool baths or the gentle application of cool wet cloths on the burned area may also provide some comfort.
  • Workers with sunburns should avoid further exposure until the burn has resolved.
  • Additional symptomatic relief may be achieved through the application of a topical moisturizing cream, aloe, or 1% hydrocortisone cream.
  • A low-dose (0.5%-1%) hydrocortisone cream, which is sold over the counter, may be helpful in reducing the burning sensation and swelling and speeding up healing.

If blistering occurs: 

  • Lightly bandage or cover the area with gauze to prevent infection.
  • The blisters should not be broken, as this will slow the healing process and increase the risk of infection.
  • When the blisters break and the skin peels, dried fragments may be removed and an antiseptic ointment or hydrocortisone cream may be applied.
  • Seek medical attention if any of the following occur:  Severe sunburns covering more than 15% of the body, dehydration, high fever (>101°F), extreme pain that persists for longer than 48 hours.

5.  Venomous Snakes in Oklahoma (Rattlesnake, Copperhead, Water Moccasin/Cottonmouth, Coral Snake)

Preventing Snake Bites

  • Workers should take the following steps to prevent a snake bite:
  • Do not try to handle any snake.
  • Stay away from tall grass and piles of leaves when possible.
  • Avoid climbing on rocks or piles of wood where a snake may be hiding.
  • Be aware that snakes tend to be active at night and in warm weather.
  • Wear boots and long pants when working outdoors.
  • Wear leather gloves when handling brush and debris.

First Aid

Workers should take the following steps if they are bitten by a snake:

  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible (dial 911 or call local Emergency Medical Services.)
  • Try to remember the color and shape of the snake, which can help with treatment of the snake bite.
  • Keep still and calm. This can slow down the spread of venom.
  • Inform your supervisor.
  • Apply first aid if you cannot get to the hospital right away.
  • Lay or sit down with the bite below the level of the heart.
  • Wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.

Do NOT do any of the following:

  • Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it.
  • Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Do not slash the wound with a knife.
  • Do not suck out the venom.
  • Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
  • Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.
  • Do not drink caffeinated beverages.

6.  Poison Ivy Prevention

Recommendations for Protecting Workers

Employers should protect their workers from poisonous plants by training them about:

  • Their risk of exposure to poisonous plants
  • How to identify poisonous plants
  • How to prevent exposure to poisonous plants
  • What they should do if they are exposed to poisonous plants

Prevention

Workers can prevent contact with poisonous plants by taking these steps:

  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, boots, and gloves.
  • Wash exposed clothing separately in hot water with detergent.
  • Barrier skin creams, such as a lotion containing bentoquatum, may offer some protection before contact.
  • Barrier creams should be washed off and reapplied twice a day.
  • After use, clean tools with rubbing alcohol (isopropanol or isopropyl alcohol) or soap and lots of water. Urushiol can remain active on the surface of objects for up to 5 years.
  • Wear disposable gloves during this process.
  • Do not burn plants that may be poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.
  • Inhaling smoke from burning plants can cause severe allergic respiratory problems.

Employers should prevent workers from being exposed to burning poisonous plants whenever possible. However, when exposure to burning poisonous plants is unavoidable, employers should provide workers with:

  • A NIOSH-certified half-face piece particulate respirator rated R–95, P–95, or better. This recommendation does NOT apply to wildland firefighters. Firefighters may require a higher level of respiratory protection to protect against possible exposure to combustion products.
  • These respirators should protect against exposure to burning poisonous plants, but will not protect against all possible combustion products in smoke, such as carbon monoxide.
  • Respirators must be worn correctly and consistently throughout the time they are used.
  • For respirators to be effective there must be a tight seal between the user’s face and the respirator.
  • Respirators must be used in the context of a written comprehensive respiratory protection program (see OSHA Respiratory Protection standard 29 CFR 1910.134 ).

First Aid

Workers who have come in contact with poisonous plants should:

  • Immediately rinse skin with rubbing alcohol, specialized poison plant washes, degreasing soap (such as dishwashing soap) or detergent, and lots of water.
  • Rinse frequently so that wash solutions do not dry on the skin and further spread the urushiol.
  • Scrub under nails with a brush.
  • Apply wet compresses, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone cream to the skin to reduce itching and blistering.
  • Follow the directions on any creams and lotions. Do not apply to broken skin, such as open blisters.
  • Oatmeal baths may relieve itching.
  • An antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can be taken to help relieve itching.
  • Follow directions on the package.
  • Drowsiness may occur.
  • If children come in contact with work clothing contaminated with urushiol, a pediatrician should be contacted to determine appropriate dosage.
  • In severe cases or if the rash is on the face or genitals, seek professional medical attention.
  • Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room if the worker is suffering a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or difficulty breathing, or has had a severe reaction in the past.

7.  Wear Personal Protective Equipment and Follow Safety Procedures

PPE: Don’t let the summer heat entice workers on your jobsite to ditch their safety gear.

During the intense heat of the summer, it’s hard to stay cool when working outside. That’s why it’s tempting for construction workers to skip wearing their personal protective equipment on the hottest days of the year. Gloves can quickly make workers’ hands feel hot and sweaty, goggles may fog up and impede vision, and hard hats can make the head feel uncomfortable and sticky in extreme temperatures.

If your crews are stripping off their goggles and gloves for even brief intervals, they’re putting themselves at risk. You may not be saying anything about it because you know how miserable they are in the heat. Although it’s a tough sell, you must convince your crews they need to wear the necessary PPE at all times, and let them know you’re willing to take steps to make them as comfortable as possible. Here are three ways to mitigate heat for your workers while keeping them safe.

1. Establish mandatory breaks
During the summer, your workers will overheat quickly. This won’t be helped by the addition of thick leather gloves, heavy work boots and other PPE gear. Your crews should be taking longer, more frequent breaks. Crew leaders should keep a close eye on the clock, ensuring workers get out of the heat at predetermined intervals and drink cool water. Remember that each person’s internal thermostat is different, and some people may need more frequent breaks than others. Skin conditions irritated by heavy fabrics and non-breathable material can become inflamed further by intense heat. Workers older than 65 will need to get out of the heat more often, as will new crew members—those who have been on the job for five days or less will not yet be acclimated to the heat.

2. Create cooling stations
Your workers will need a place where they can remove items such as hard hats, goggles, gloves and ear plugs to allow their bodies’ temperatures to lower quickly. The location should be convenient to the jobsite and either be shaded or air-conditioned. In addition to having plenty of cool water available in the cooling station, consider additional options such as misting fans, personal cooling packs and cool damp cloths.

3. Provide the appropriate PPE
Issue your workers anti-fogging goggles that fit properly and offer excellent ventilation, hard hats with vents to offer as much air circulation as possible, and ventilated gloves to offer both circulation and flexibility. Go the extra mile and have cooling bandanas, sweat bands, neck shades and sweat liners available for workers to use when needed.

 

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