Outdoor hazards to watch for during warm weather months

The end of a long, cold winter can bring a welcome re-introduction to the great outdoors.

You may not need to worry about hypothermia, but warm weather is not without its own risks, especially for people who work outdoors. Depending on what kind of outdoor exposure you’re getting, there are a few warm weather hazards to pay attention to.

Share the following tips with your employees to help them stay safe in warm weather.

Outdoor slips and falls

Icy sidewalks aren’t the only cause of falls when you’re outdoors. Even when it’s warm outside, be sure to watch out for potential tripping hazards.

Pay attention to the conditions of the surfaces you’re walking on. Parking lots, sidewalks, ramps and stairs can all have cracks, holes or uneven surfaces that could cause you to trip. Use handrails on stairs or ramps, and try to keep your hands free. Do not carry more than you can handle or items that block your vision.

Don’t take shortcuts through lawns or center islands. There is often uneven ground and concealed or hard-to-see holes.

Report any unsafe outdoor conditions.

Heat stress

When you’re working in the heat, it’s important to make sure you stay hydrated. If you aren’t taking in enough fluids or salts, it can lead to heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

To prevent heat stress, give yourself time to adjust to hot weather by limiting your exposure at first, and gradually increasing the amount of time until your body has acclimated to the heat. Try to schedule work during the coolest parts of the day.

Drink plenty of liquids to replace what your body loses through sweating. You should be drinking approximately one cup of water every 15 minutes. Sports drinks with electrolytes are useful for replacing necessary salts as well.

Don’t ignore symptoms of heat stress. Stop your work to cool off in a shaded or air-conditioned area if you experience dizziness, nausea or muscle cramping.

Lightning safety

If you work outdoors, it’s important to pay attention to weather patterns. Thunderstorms are common in the Midwest, and on average, 60 deaths and 300 injuries are caused by lightning every year.

Stay up-to-date on weather forecasts and watch out for early warning signs. If a storm is predicted, don’t start working on projects you won’t be able to stop quickly. Clouds that grow vertically into towering cumulus clouds are often the first sign of a developing storm. Other indicators include high winds, dark clouds, rain and distant thunder.

When you see lightning, count the seconds until you hear thunder. If the time is 30 seconds or less, then the storm is close enough to be dangerous. Leave any open-air structures or area with tall trees and seek shelter inside an enclosed building. Metal-topped vehicles are also safe.

If you are outdoors, stay off and away from tall structures or large equipment. Do not touch anything that can conduct electricity. Wait at least 30 minutes following the last clap of thunder before resuming your work.

Insect-borne diseases

Summer is peak season for ticks and insect bites. If you work outdoors, be aware of the conditions that put you most at risk. Insects are most active at dawn, dusk and early evening in tall grass, shrubs and wooded areas.

You can avoid insect bites by wearing long pants, sleeves, closed-toe shoes and a hat. Use insect repellents on clothes and exposed skin. You should perform body checks for ticks after being outdoors. If one is found, remove it immediately with fine-tipped tweezers by pulling it straight out. Then cleanse the area with antiseptic.

While not common, illnesses such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus can be passed on by deer ticks and mosquitos. If you suspect you may have contracted an illness, seek medical attention.

Spring and summer months come with their own unique safety risks. Getting back outside after a long winter can feel like a relief, but don’t let that cause you to let your guard down while working outside.

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