Outdoor Hazards: They’re Out to Get You!
Employees must be trained on multiple hazards, from weather emergencies to insects, plants, sunburn, and heat-related illnesses.
- By Robert A. Ernst
- May 01, 2003
WE all enjoy being outside when the weather is pleasant. And after a long winter, warming temperatures and sunny conditions lure our employees out of doors for work-related tasks, at-home yard work, or just for recreation. This creates some unique problems for those responsible for safeguarding the health and safety of workers.
Many occupations require employees to be outdoors for at least part of the time. OSHA requires that employees be trained to recognize and avoid all workplace hazards, including those that can occur outside. It also makes sense to train employees on how to avoid outdoor hazards off the job so they stay safe and healthy while away from work.
Most of us know that when we are outdoors, exposure to the mix of heat, humidity, and sun can lead to serious heat-related illnesses. But a number of other problems can occur from sunburns to insect bites and stings. They include:
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- Natural or man-made terrain hazards on the job site,
- Dermatitis from poisonous plants,
- Severe weather conditions,
- Sunburn, heat stress, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, and
- West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and other insect-borne diseases.
The Lay of the Land
The work site, as well as the layout of the area around it, can contribute to hazardous conditions when working on the grounds or just walking to a job site.
- Uneven surfaces, wet grass, and mud can make for dangerous travel, whether walking or driving. Take precautions when maneuvering vehicles over rough terrain.
- Holes in the ground can cause trips or falls. Make sure they are identified and marked, or filled in quickly.
- Certain terrain hazards can cause water to collect. Water can create a drowning hazard; according to OSHA, excavations must be inspected after every rainstorm.
- Hazards can also be found overhead. Remember to keep track of where any power lines might be when working or moving equipment.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
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