The great outdoors can be a wonderful place to work but there are many hazards during the warm weather months that everyone needs to be aware of. Sometimes we don’t even think about the hazards until we land in trouble; often too late to get out. Through recognition, evaluation, and training for the presence of these outdoor hazards we can help protect ourselves and others from harm’s way.  Be aware of your surroundings and hazards that come into your space during the performance of your daily tasks.

Here are eight common outdoor hazards to avoid!

outdoor safety heat stressHeat can cause a lot of problems. Working in and around it, we often hear “Oh, just drink plenty of fluids and you’ll be fine”. But, do you know what “Plenty” is? Do you know the elements of heat stress to be aware of?  Heat stress can develop into heat rashes, cramps, exhaustion, and even stroke. We need to be aware of how to recognize these conditions and what we can do for them for both ourselves and our co-workers.

protect workers from UV raysUV rays can grossly affect exposed skin. It is important to protect yourself during the extreme exposure times of the year.  In addition to painful sunburn, UV can cause deadly cancers and age the skin. Become aware of how UV rays cause harm and when you are at greatest risk. Always use a good sunscreen and have periodic skin exams.

protect workers from lightning strikesLightning can kill, cause burns and nervous system damage. Lightning kills about 80 people in the U.S. each year and injures hundreds of others.  Some of the injuries from a lightning strike may not manifest themselves until months later.  If you hear thunder, know that lightning can strike your location.  It is possible for lightning to strike 10 miles or more from a storm and even when there is a sunny sky.  Work sites should have a plan for what to do in a lightning storm. Temporary worksites and equipment should be protected by lightning masts or other appropriate devices. Be careful not to stand near any lightning conductors or attractors, like trees!

protect workers from wasps, bees, yellow jackets and flying insects

Insects can sure mess up a good day. It’s important to learn protection from these stinging and biting bees, wasp, hornets, fire ants, scorpions and other outdoor insect hazards. Many workers encounter very different insect habitats as they change job locations. We have to become aware of what insects may be in our work places so we can properly protect ourselves from harm. Learn the symptoms of bites or stings if you’re unfortunate enough to be attacked, and when to call for help. Did you know 90 to 100 people in the United States die each year from allergic reactions from stings? If you are at risk of anaphylactic shock, consult your doctor about carrying an EpiPen, or other medication, on the job.

how to protect workers from snakes

Venomous snakes and spiders are present in many locations we work. Even though most species are harmless, the possibility of poisonous species causes fear and concern in many workers.  Every location has different species. Through education about the species present in the locations where we work we can better prepare and protect ourselves. Knowing where these critters may hide in your work areas and caution in entry or hand placement can greatly reduce the risk of contact.  Some 8000 people per year receive venomous snake bites in the United States, but only a few are fatal.  Improve your chances of surviving a spider or snake bite by knowing appropriate first aid and fast access to a medical facility.

how to protect workers from poison ivy and poison oak

Poisonous plants thrive in many outdoor environments. Nasty plants like poison ivy and poison oak are common throughout North America. Being able to recognize these plants is important. Avoiding contact is rule #1, as well as wearing gloves and clothing that cover the skin. If contact is made, immediate cleansing with soap and water can reduce the severity of rashes. However, some sensitive persons may need to seek medical help. Be prepared to protect yourself and others working around you.

How to avoid ticks and mosquitos

Mosquitos and ticks can carry nasty diseases. We are learning more all the time about health threats and concerns for those that work out in the outdoor environment from ticks and mosquitos. Know your worksite and the insects inhabiting it. Use sprays and repellants wisely and dress appropriately to the environment. Learn the preventive measures we can take to keep these insects off and away, and the symptoms of their diseases. Many tick-borne diseases are dangerous, so seek medical attention immediately if you develop known symptoms. There are many good references to consult on these hazards, as well as comprehensive outdoor hazard training courses. As they say, “the best defense is a good offense”. Taking the offensive in understanding and confronting outdoor hazards is the best way to keep you and your workers safe.

training for working in extreme cold weatherCold is the other extreme. Working in the outdoors, yes, but also inside warehouses and other cold places –even in summer! Cold stress can be as bad as heat stress. You need to learn the symptoms of hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot and chilblains. With adequate training,you will understand the effects and be able to recognize the symptoms in order to help others as well as to protect yourself.

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About The Author

Bryan Dixon is an LBA University® course director and EHS Services Manager for LBA Group. He has two decades of industrial, construction and fire safety training and management experience and is a certified OSHA Outreach Trainer.

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