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Spring has Sprung: Outdoor Safety Tips

- April 14, 2017 by Dan Heinen, ASP (View all posts by Dan)

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? No, not pilgrims, as the joke goes, but with outdoor work comes exposure to hay fever, pollens, allergies, bees, wasps and other flying, crawling, stinging and biting creatures needed to pollinate. And let us not forget that many other animals give birth in the late spring/early summer and can be aggressive in protecting their nesting areas and young.

Unfortunately and well known to those that suffer from it, the allergy and hay fever can run from spring when plants start blooming all the way until the first frost (basically May through October). If you happen to be one of the many that suffer from allergies and hay fever, a simple over the counter (OTC) medication may be all that is needed to keep symptoms under control. Often a pharmacy can help choose the right one according to the symptoms. In more extreme cases, seeing an allergy specialist may be needed to find out what exactly is the cause of the sniffling, sneezing and runny nose. They can perform tests, usually a series of shots (more like little needle sticks under the skin along the back) of typical allergens to see which allergens react. Then treatment is planned from the results which may range from taking an OTC medication as needed to more extreme (life threating) cases carrying an EpiPen. Other plants such as poison oak, ivy or sumac may also cause a reaction with treatment ranging from OTC creams or lotions to prescribed steroid shots.

Bug bites and stings usually are just annoying, causing temporary discomfort and pain, but no serious or lasting health problems. But sometimes, they can cause infections that require treatment and allergic reactions that can be serious, even fatal. In those cases, immediate medical treatment is required. Trying to plan your jobs so exposure is at a minimum can be tough. Often times you have no idea there is a wasp nest underground until you drive over it with a mower. For instance, I was working for an electrical contractor years ago and when they pulled the meter off the house to change it out there was a bee hive in the wall. Nesting geese or ducks (believe it or not) can and will be very aggressive when their nesting areas are disturbed and they do bite… and it hurts! Same goes with an encounter with a raccoon or squirrel den in an attic. Not a fun scenario! If you discover one of these, it is best to work away from or call a company that specializes in pest removal.

Furthermore, OSHA has a standard that addresses harmful plants and animals that may be encountered on a job site:

1926.21(b)(4) In job site areas where harmful plants or animals are present, employees who may be exposed shall be instructed regarding the potential hazards, and how to avoid injury, and the first aid procedures to be used in the event of injury.

You can’t prevent all exposures to everything you may encounter, but planning ahead for situations that may occur, requiring and providing proper PPE as well as communicating with your employees about job site conditions can help reduce exposure, minimize down time and result in a more harmonious outcome for you job.

 

 
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