Extreme-Weather Safety: Don't Underestimate Mother Nature
Workers are often exposed to harsh elements, whether it be sun, heat, cold, or wind. As a result effort must be made to protect them from over exposure and from extreme weather conditions, which can cause illness.
It is a well-known fact that over exposure to the sun's rays can cause severe skin damage and even skin cancer.
- Try to complete outdoor work early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
- Put up tarts to provide shade.
- Work under natural shade, e.g. trees when possible.
- Wear protective clothing: wide brimmed hats, long sleeve shirt, long pants, keep the back of the neck covered.
- Use sunscreen and reapply regularly.
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
- If feeling really hot or ill take a break to rehydrate and to rest. Make sure you have adequate shelter.
- Never work alone, as no one can help you if you become ill.
- Refer to extreme heat.
- Refer to extreme cold.
The biggest risks from the cold are hypothermia and frost bite. But the cold can also affect work performance and a worker's reaction time, which can pose a risk.
- Dress appropriately, with layers of clothing rather than one big coat.
- Keep all body parts covered, e.g. gloves, took, ear muffs.
- Avoid working when the cold becomes extreme.
- Know the warning signs of hypothermia and frost bite and have a plan in place of what to do during an emergency (e.g. make sure there is adequate shelter near by).
- Never work alone.
- Beware of the wind, as it can make the environment much colder (windchill).
- Stay dry, as moisture will increase the rate of body heat loss.
The wind poses a greater risk for anyone working at a height, e.g. on a roof of a house, up in a ladder, construction workers on a building, etc. the biggest risk, obviously, is that of falling from a gust of wind.
- If wind becomes extreme consider stopping the work until conditions improve.
- Put up wind barriers.
- Use a Fall Arrest System.
- Keep your center of gravity low to the surface to make balancing easier.
Lightning / Electrical Storms
Every second in our atmosphere there are about 100 lightning strokes. In the U.S. alone about 100 people die every year from being hit by lightning, and many more are hospitalized. Because our bodies, especially our heart, works primarily with electrical impulses, we are very sensitive to electrical discharges, even ones much smaller than lightning bolts. Being hit by lightning can lead to broken bones, cardiac arrhythmia, severe burns, and death.
The mechanics of lightning are very complex, and our purpose is not to learn about physics, but to rather discuss safety measures.
If you see storm clouds approaching it means you need to take precautions immediately. If you can see or hear lightning it means you are already within striking distance – take cover immediately. Many times lightning occurs without rain. So waiting for rain before taking cover is not safe.
- If you are using any type of machine turn it off and unplug it. This includes machines at work, computers, TVs, etc.
- Do NOT stand under or near a tree. If the tree were to get hit there would be so much heat produced that you would probably die, even if you don't get hit directly.
- Do NOT stand near a window. The electric current may travel through the outside walls of a building making you susceptible to electrocution.
- Do NOT hold anything metal, e.g. umbrella, golf stick, etc., above your head.
- Do NOT stand near electrical appliances, e.g. TV, or use a land line phone. If lightning were to hit a pole or antenna the current could travel to the appliance. This also applies to equipment at the work place.
- Avoid being in high places, near light poles, near communication towers, metal bleachers (the kind at football stadiums), metal fences, golf carts, or open water (lakes, rivers, ocean/sea).
- If you are driving do not get out of the car. Getting out will make you much more exposed. If the storm becomes severe pull over but don't touch any metal parts of the car, as they can conduct electricity if there is a strike near by.
If someone is hit by lighting they need medical help immediately, even if they appear totally fine.