With summer around the corner, employers and workers will soon cope with weather-related work hazards – including heat and direct sun exposure, as well as Lyme Disease and other bloodborne diseases from tick bites. Employers should be aware of the potential hazards that are a part of working in an outdoor environment in the summer.
The combination of heat and humidity is a serious health threat during the summer months, and a reason for many clinic visits. If your workplace includes outdoor work, or work in a kitchen, laundry or bakery, it’s especially important to make employees aware of the risks of heat-related illness. Remind workers to:
- Drink plenty of water before getting thirsty.
- Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing, such as cotton.
- Take frequent short breaks in cool shade.
- Eat smaller meals before work activity.
- Avoid caffeine or large amounts of sugar.
- Check medications to ensure heat won’t create adverse side effects.
- Understand and remember that equipment, such as respirators or work suits, can increase heat stress.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts and skin cancer. No matter what the media tells you, there are no safe UV rays or safe suntans. Advise workers to be especially careful in the sun if they burn easily; spend a lot of time outdoors; have numerous freckles, lighter natural skin color, or red/light-color hair; and to:
- Cover up. Wear tightly woven clothing you can’t see through.
- Use sunscreen. A sun protector factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93% of UV rays.
- Wear a hat. A wide brim hat, not a baseball cap, works best because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.
- Wear UV-absorbent shades. Sunglasses don’t have to be expensive, but they should be able to block 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation.
- Limit exposure. UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The risk of acquiring a tick-borne illness depends on location, the type of tick, and how long the tick was attached. Understanding how to reduce these risks can limit clinic visits significantly. Workers should:
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. Always walk in the center of trails, in order to avoid ticks.
- Use a repellent with DEET (on skin or clothing) or permethrin (on clothing) and wear long sleeves, long pants and socks.
- Perform daily tick checks after being outdoors and immediately remove any ticks.
- Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has shown to reduce the risk of being bitten by a tick.