Employees who work outdoors face a more significant risk of contracting injury or illnesses than their co-workers who work indoors. Be it the summer or winters, several risks could cause a negative impact on workers' productivity levels and overall health. Below is a helpful guide to safety measures that should be referred when working outdoors, as stated by OSHA.
1. Working Outdoors in Warm Climates
Sunlight, especially that after 10 am, consists of ultraviolet (UV) rays that can damage the skin and pose a risk of skin cancer, premature aging, wrinkles, and cataracts. There is no such thing known as safe UV rays or suntans. And you need to be extra careful if your skin is prone to easy burns or your skin falls into any of the following criteria: freckles, irregular or large moles, fair skin, or you have blond, red, or light brown hair. A guide for protecting oneself from the UV rays is given below:
- Ensure your clothing is appropriate, i.e., loose-fitted. To save yourself from harmful UV rays, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. To protect your head, ear, nose, and scalp, wear a wide brim hat, not a baseball cap.
- Use sunscreen with proper SPF for your skin. Read the usage directions given on the tube/bottle. It doesn't matter if the bottle says the sunscreen is water-resistant; it can still wear off. So re-apply after every few hours for maximum protection.
- Wear UV absorbent sunglasses. They don't need to be expensive, just appropriate for blocking about 99% of UVA and UVB radiation.
- Limit exposure during the most aggressive sunlight hours, i.e., 10 am to 4 pm.
Even if you protect yourself from UV rays, it doesn’t mean you are safe from the warm and humid climate during the summer, primarily if you work on a farm, laundromat, bakery, kitchen, or a construction site. Following are some preventive measures:
- Stay hydrated.
- Wear loose-fitted and light fabric and light-colored clothes. Cotton should be good in this regard.
- Eat small meals before a task.
- Take frequent short breaks in a cool shade.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar.
- If you have any prescribed medications, check whether they’re appropriate to be taken in torrid weather.
- Physical exertion needs to be reduced during warm and humid weather conditions. Avoid overexertion on one worker by assigning the task to multiple workers.
- Watch for signs of heatstroke, i.e., headache, confusion, lightheadedness, irrational behaviors, hot and dry skin, abnormally high body temperature, and loss of consciousness.
2. Working Outdoors in Cold Climates
Frostbite is the freezing of the tissues and skin. It can cause permanent damage to the body part and may even lead to amputation in severe conditions. The risk is high for people with reduced blood circulation and those inappropriately dressed for cold temperatures. Following are some preventive measures:
- Protect the affected area, e.g., tie it with a loose-dry cloth until professional help arrives.
- Invest in wearing leather safety gloves to save your hands from frostbite.
- Don’t try to warm the affected area on your own because it can cause more tissue damage if it freezes again. Wait for professional help to warm the part.
- Don’t rub the affected area as it can cause tissue damage.
- Don’t apply snow or water to the affected area.
- If the person is alert, provide them with warm, sweet drinks, but not alcohol.
A person’s average body temperature is 37.2°C; a temperature below 35°C can induce hypothermia. Exposure to cold temperatures causes the body to lose heat faster. This can eventually use up all the body’s energy and lead to abnormally low body temperature, causing hypothermia. The condition can even occur if a person experiences severe cold due to rain, sweat, etc. Following are some preventive measures:
- Take the person to a warm, dry area.
- Remove wet clothing and wrap the entire body with warm blankets. Do not cover the face.
- Call 911 in an emergency.
- If professional help is more than half an hour away:
- If the person is awake, provide them with warm, sweetened drinks, but not alcohol. Never try to make an unconscious person drink.
- Keep warm packs or bottles on the side of the chest, in armpits, and near the groin area.
2.3 Trench Foot
Trench foot is the condition that occurs when the feet are exposed to prolonged wet conditions. This happens because wet feet tend to lose heat 20 times faster than dry feet. Following are the preventive measures:
- Remove wet shoes/socks immediately.
- Dry the feet and avoid movement.
- Avoid walking.
- In severe conditions, seek medical help.
3. Standard Preventive Measures for Working Outdoors
To sum it all up, you need to take a bunch of preventive measures to ensure the workers are safe. Following are some workplace safety awareness tips you can take to keep yourself safe.
- Drink plenty of water when working in warm conditions. Make sure your workplace provides for you to take regular breaks to cool yourself off in the shade.
- Wear proper, light-colored, and light-fitted clothes. Make sure your clothes are long-sleeved while working in sunlight. Use sunscreen regularly.
- Know the environment you’re going to be working in and take measures beforehand.
- Take professional medical help in case of severe conditions, whether in warm or cold climates.
It’s essential to have the right kind of gear to protect yourself from harsh temperatures. The factory should provide safety workwear like safety leather gloves etc., and every worker should get proper workplace safety awareness tips to know what they should do during harsh conditions. If you need to buy safety workwear, you can visit Elite Leather Creations for the right gear.