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Many people associate summer weather with outside recreation, but for outdoor workers, summer brings a variety of occupational hazards. The most common summer safety concerns for outdoor workers are heat stress, sun exposure, noise pollution, and biological hazards.
Employers have an obligation to provide a safe work environment for their outdoor workers, including training and education about the different types of workplace injuries and accidents, occupational illnesses, and the proper use of personal protective equipment.
Heat stress and heat-related illnesses are major concerns for outdoor workers. Workers who are 65 years old and older may have heart disease or high blood pressure, are overweight, or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.
Exposure to extreme heat can result in heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, which can be fatal. To prevent heat-related illnesses, employers should provide cool, shaded areas for workers to take frequent breaks, and avoid scheduling strenuous work during the hottest hours of the day. Workers can also be rotated in shifts to do outdoor tasks.
Outdoor workers may experience various types of injuries and illnesses. Some heat-related injuries and illnesses are more common. Workers should be aware of outdoor hazards so that they are prepared for summer work.
A common hazard in summer is heat rash. Heat rash is the irritation of the skin caused by excessive perspiration. It appears as a cluster of red pimples or small blisters usually in skin creases at the elbows, groin area, under the breasts, or on the neck and upper chest. Workers can use powder to keep the rash area dry and should not use ointments or creams to treat heat rash.
Heat cramps are also common. Heat cramps occur because excessive sweating in extreme heat can deplete the body’s salt and moisture levels. Workers may experience heat cramps as pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs. To combat heat cramps, avoid salt tablets and drink water. In addition, have a snack or sports drink to replace electrolytes every 15 to 20 minutes. Workers with heart problems, low sodium diets, or whose cramps do not subside within an hour, should seek immediate medical attention.
One serious danger is heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a severe bodily response to the loss of water and salt that is caused by excessive sweating. Workers should be aware of certain symptoms:
Anyone suffering from heat exhaustion should be taken to an emergency room for treatment. While waiting for help to arrive, the worker should be moved to a cool area and given frequent sips of cool water and cold compresses to the head and neck area.
Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat stress and can cause permanent disability or even death if emergency treatment is not given. With heat stroke, the body temperature rises rapidly, and the sweating mechanism fails. The body is unable to cool down and regulate its temperature. It is important to be mindful of heat stroke symptoms:
Emergency medical care must be called. Until help arrives, the worker should be moved to a cool area and treated with cold, wet cloths, or an ice bath, if possible.
When workers are outside all day, sun exposure can cause many issues. Sun exposure can have short and long-term consequences for outdoor workers. The ultraviolet rays of the sun can penetrate beyond the top layer of the skin and alter the structure of the skin’s cells.
Unprotected exposure to the sun’s rays can cause painful sunburn and skin cancer. The risk of sun exposure is high between 10 a.m. until four in the afternoon. Additionally, light-colored surfaces or water that is reflecting sunlight increases sunburn and exposure.
Even on cloudy days, outdoor workers should protect themselves from sun exposure by wearing light long-sleeve shirts made of tightly knit fabric, and wear sunscreen and wide brimmed hats. Workers suffering from sunburn can use topical creams to moisturize the area, cool the skin, and ease discomfort. Outdoor workers who develop any irregularly shaped moles or discolorations should see a dermatologist immediately.
Noise pollution can result in occupational hearing loss, which is one of the most common work-related injuries in the United States. Almost all work-related hearing loss is permanent and can profoundly impact a person’s quality of life.
Many outdoor workers use power tools that expose them to hazardous noise levels. If it is difficult to speak with someone at arm’s length and you have to raise your voice, then your work environment is too loud. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict guidelines for workplace decibel levels. Employers should use the quietest equipment available and provide workers with hearing protection.
Workers can also experience biological hazards. Biological hazards for outdoor workers include venomous insects, poisonous plants, and vector borne diseases, which are contracted by insect bites.
Depending on the region of the country, outdoor workers may encounter venomous snakes, spiders, and insects. Also, poisonous plant oils can cause severe reactions to the skin. Clearing dangerous plants and brush can release toxins into the air.
Mosquitos and ticks can carry bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Diseases carried by mosquitoes include Zika virus, West Nile virus, dengue, and malaria. Tick borne diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.
Outdoor workers are more at risk for insect bites in the summer months and should protect themselves by wearing light long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and socks that cover the ankles. Make sure to carry insect repellent. Work sites should have tall grass and brush cut back and all sources of standing water eliminated.
Outdoor workers have the right to a safe working environment during the hot summer months. There are many preventative measures that can be taken to protect outdoor workers from heat stress, sun exposure, noise pollution, and biological hazards. If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness, report it to your employer, and seek medical care immediately.
After you suffer an injury or illness, it is important to contact a lawyer who will help you with a Workers’ Compensation claim. A lawyer will guide you through the process and ensure you receive necessary compensation.
If you have a work-related injury or illness, you may be eligible for compensation. Our dedicated Delaware work accident lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow can help you get the maximum benefits available to you so that you can recover. Call us at 302-427-9500 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Middletown, Dover, Milford, Hillsborough, Lewes, Rehoboth, Elsmere, and Seaford.