Having a job that requires working outdoors can be a gift for many individuals, especially those that prefer to be out in the fresh air and away from stuffy cubicles. However, while this may be ideal for many people, it also has a variety of safety risks. People who work in certain industries which involve working outdoors — including construction workers, painters, gardeners and landscapers, and roofers — have associated risks and dangers like heat exhaustion, bug bites, and accidents, to name just a few. By understanding the probable risks of working outdoors, you can better protect yourself and your employees.
Risks of Working Outdoors
A variety of risks from working outdoors exist, some of which may surprise you. The most obvious risks are physical and related to the elements. By working outside, you are exposing your body to extreme hot and cold weather conditions which can cause illness and disease, including frost bite and heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke. If you spend the majority of your day without shade, you are risking skin cancer and other conditions from the ultraviolet radiation exposure. Other extreme weather conditions like floods, hail, and lightning strikes also put your health at risk. Many of the risks of working outdoors also have to do with the type of work you’re doing, such as construction workers that work on roofs, or landscapers using heavy equipment that can be dangerous.
Biological concerns are also common risks for individuals working outdoors. This includes possible infections or bites from insects, snakes, bees, and animals that can carry disease and transfer it to the worker. Some of these snakes may even be venomous, which can be extremely dangerous and even life threatening. Outdoor workers should be aware of the most dangerous snakes and insects which include black widows, hobo spiders, brown recluse spiders, rattlesnakes, coral snakes, and copperheads. Additional risks of working outdoors include health concerns associated with using certain chemicals and pesticides, primarily for landscapers and those in a similar profession that use these types of chemicals on a regular basis.
What Employers Can Do
If you have employees that work outdoors most or all of the time, then you should be aware of safety precautions to protect their health and safety. Protective gear and clothing is always important for outdoor workers, which includes goggles or sunglasses, gloves, long-sleeved shirts and pants for workers near poisonous plants or insects, and other gear pertaining to your industry. If workers are required to work during extremely hot days, be sure they keep hydrated, take frequent breaks, and work more during the cooler hours such as early in the morning. It’s also a good idea to require your workers wear sunscreen to protect their skin from exposure to the sun as well as other extreme conditions like strong winds.
Employees should also be educated and trained on plants, insects, and animals that can be dangerous to them. This includes educating them on possible venomous snakes, insects that can bite and carry diseases, and plants that cause allergic reactions such as poison oak and ivy. Workers who deal with wood piles and cardboard will need to be extra careful of poisonous spiders that hide in these areas, including the brown recluse spider and black widows. As an additional precaution, you should have proper business insurance for your workers who are at risk for illness or injury.
If you are a business owner who has employees who work outdoors, it is both their responsibility and yours to be sure they are being safe and keeping out of harm’s way. Having business insurance can protect you when accidents and other unforeseen events occur as a result of working outdoors.