Today we discuss some of the requirements associated with the protection of personnel working outdoors. By all reports we are in for a scorcher this year, so lets get our activities on the table and make sure we have the right measures in place. Lets talk about protection from the weather, provision of facilities and protection from UV radiation.
Our objective is to ensure that outdoor workers are adequately protected from all adverse outdoor conditions, not least of which the weather. Hazards related to poisonous or toxic flora and fauna including insects, spiders, snakes and poisonous or toxic plants are also considered.
Lets break this down into the major issues to be addressed.
1. Shelters and Facilities
Unless the outdoor work location is within close proximity to indoor facilities (toilets, washing and dining facilities, etc.), such facilities should be provided.
2. Wet and Cold Conditions
In work locations where personnel may be exposed to low temperatures, high winds and wet conditions, first aiders should be trained in recognising the symptoms of, and providing first aid for hypothermia.
The provision of first aid for hypothermia must include:
- Prevention of further heat loss (clothing, blankets, etc)
- Provision of heat (indoors, warm drinks, heat packs, etc)
- Evacuation (if required, to a hospital)
3. UV Radiation
Activities carried out in the sun must be assessed to determine whether:
The task can be carried out indoors or in the shade; or if this is not practicable, direct exposure to the sun can be minimised.
Outdoor workers must be provided with equipment to protect them from UV radiation, such as broad-brim hats, sunglasses, clothing with the appropriate UPF (UV Protection factor), etc. This should also apply to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and must include items such as UVR-rated hard hats, etc.
The use of long-sleeved shirts and long pants should be promoted and clothes provided to personnel should be light and loose, so as to allow ‘breathing’ and reduce the potential for thermal stress.
Arrangements should also be established to ensure the consistent use of sun screens by all personnel exposed to UV radiation.
Personnel who are required to work in the sun must be given information to increase their awareness of the importance of using the protective measures provided.
4. Working in Hot Conditions
Managers must take steps to prevent the effect of heat on workers required to work outdoors in hot weather. This should cover heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke, etc.
Measures can include the provision of shade (where possible), the provision of loose clothing and ensuring the availability of salt-replacement fluids.
5. Lightning Strikes
Workers should be provided with awareness training and instruction on the risk associated with lightning strikes. This must include steps to be taken in the event of being outdoors during a thunder storm. These steps normally include, but are not limited to the following:
- immediately seek the shelter of a building or an enclosed vehicle;
- never shelter under trees;
- if in a boat, immediately head for shore;
- don’t touch any metal objects; and
- if caught in the open, crouch down with your feet together – do not lie down.
6. Natural Hazards
In areas where personnel may be exposed to natural hazards, arrangements must be in place to manage the associated risk, including:
- To provide personnel with information on the risks and to ensure they are able to identify such hazards;
- To ensure good housekeeping and workplace hygiene and to have in place arrangements for the regular disposal of rubbish;
- To provide personnel with insect repellent as required;
- Where appropriate, to ensure that work areas are assessed for infestation (e.g. wasps nests and bee hives) and that any such sources are removed.
Where required, first aid provisions should include specialised first aid kit modules (eg for snake, spider and insect bites). This must include the provisions of kits to personnel working in remote locations.
7. Health Assessment and Acclimatisation
Workers required to work outdoors (particularly in the hot sun) for extended periods, should undergo periodic health assessment.
The assessment takes into consideration the risk factors of personnel who may be exposed to the heat. These risk factors should include:
- Specific conditions relevant to these personnel (e.g. mature aged persons, pregnant women, persons who are obese or in poor physical condition, etc);
- Any recent illnesses suffered by personnel involved;
- Any other considerations specifically relevant.
Where appropriate, such workers should be given the opportunity to acclimatise to these conditions over a period of time.
Training must be provided to personnel who regularly work outdoors.