Whether working outside is an everyday occurrence or a rarity, it is important to be prepared and stay safe while doing so. Keep reading to learn about common hazards associated with working outdoors and how to protect yourself.
Physical Hazards When Working Outside
- Extreme heat—Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash are all common, yet dangerous signals that your body is too warm. Watch out for high temperatures, severe humidity and limited air movement, which may lead to these conditions. Be especially careful if you are engaging in physical activity, are in poor physical condition, are taking certain medications or are unusually intolerant of hot workplaces.
- Ultraviolet (UV) radiation—Even when it’s cloudy, you are still at risk of damaging your skin from UV exposure. Protect yourself from UV rays by covering up in tightly-woven clothing, using sunscreen before going outside, wearing a protective hat and UV-absorbent glasses, and limiting sun exposure, if possible.
- Lightning storms—Lightning storms can be dangerous to outdoor workers because of the risk of a direct strike, conducted current, ground voltage radiation or fallen debris. Watch for storms and know when to seek shelter.
Biological Hazards When Working Outside
- Mosquitoes—To protect yourself from disease spread by mosquitoes, such as West Nile virus, cover any cut or scraped skin and wear insect repellent.
- Ticks—If you work outside, wear a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and a hat. Take extra care to wear protective clothing in the peak activity months, which are June through August.
- Snakes—If you work in areas with tall grass, brush or wood piles, it’s wise to educate yourself about the types of poisonous snakes in your geographic region. If you have been bitten, seek medical attention, even if you know the snake is not poisonous. Carefully note the snake’s color(s) and shape to help with the treatment process.
- Stinging insects—To prevent being stung by an insect, avoid wearing cologne or perfume and refrain from scented toiletries. Be sure to bathe daily and wear clean clothing, as sweat often attracts stinging insects.
- Spiders—Prepare yourself for outdoor work by being able to easily identify the three types of venomous spiders found in the United States—which are the black widow, brown recluse and hobo (also known as violin) spiders.
- Scorpions—If you work in an area where scorpions are around, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and leather gloves. Always shake out your clothing and shoes before putting them on.
- Poisonous plants—Be aware that direct contact with poisonous plants is one way to be exposed, but touching tools that have had direct contact or inhaling particles from burning plants are other hazards.
For more information on working safely outdoors, consult your supervisor.