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  • What measures can be taken to ensure the safety of employees working outdoors?

What measures can be taken to ensure the safety of employees working outdoors?

As excited as we are for warmer weather, it’s crucial for employers to prioritize the safety of their employees from any potential hazards. Ensuring adequate protection from sun exposure and any other outdoor hazards is vital for the health and well-being of employees working outdoors.

Workers are at risk of illness and injuries due to various factors such as poor air quality, heat, and insects. However, employers can do their best to protect employees by conducting risk assessments, providing training, and taking measures to effectively protect and maintain the well-being of staff.

According to CAREX Canada, 1.5 million Canadians are exposed to the sun at work which can increase the risk of skin cancer, heat stress, and other serious health issues. So, what can employers do to keep staff protected?

Wendy Irwin, Health & Safety Consultant at BrightHR Canada, shares advice below.

Conduct risk assessments.

Risk assessments play a vital role in identifying potential risks and hazards that could lead to harm in the workplace. It involves analyzing the level of risk associated with each hazard and determining suitable methods to eliminate or control the risk if the hazard cannot be completely eliminated.

Employers should conduct risk assessments to help identify potential hazards their outdoor workers may encounter, such as extreme heat. By identifying these hazards, appropriate measures can be put into place to protect staff from potential harm.

It’s important to note that employers are required under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation in Canada to take all reasonable precautions to safeguard their employees.

The cost of not doing so is too great and there are hefty fines. For example, in Ontario under the OHSA, if an employer is convicted of a health & safety offense, they may be subject to a fine of up to $500,000 and/or up to 12 months imprisonment. Health and safety inspectors will apply and enforce these laws based on the facts they find in the workplace.

How can employers protect employees from sun exposure?

There are various ways employers can ensure the safety of employees from sun exposure. Some examples include:

• Provide shade: Ensure that there are shaded areas or somewhere with air conditioning readily available. This will allow employees to take breaks, remove themselves from the exposure, cool off, and rest. • Use protective clothing: Encourage the use of or provide appropriate clothing options for employees such as lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and long pants to help cover exposed skin and offer additional protection from the sun. • Promote sunscreen use: Provide sunscreen in easily accessible locations where possible and remind employees to reapply regularly. • Eye protection: Encourage employees to wear sunglasses with UV protection to shield their eyes from harmful UV rays. • Ensure employees’ hydrate: Encourage employees to drink lots of water and hydrate frequently. It also helps to provide drinking water stations where possible.

Do employers need to have in place a sun protection policy?

Developing a sun safety policy is a proactive and responsible approach to protecting the health and well-being of employees who work outdoors. While it may not be a legal requirement in all jurisdictions, implementing a sun safety policy demonstrates a commitment to employee safety and can help prevent sun-related health issues.

When developing a sun safety policy, consider including elements such as guidelines for sun protection practices, scheduling of work to minimize sun exposure, provision of protective clothing and equipment, access to shade, hydration protocols, and training and education on sun safety.

Biting insects

Heat and humidity create an ideal environment for mosquitos and ticks. Ticks have the potential to transmit Lyme disease, while mosquitoes can carry infections like the West Nile virus. It’s crucial to take proactive measures to reduce or eliminate the risk of infections resulting from insect bites. Additionally, it’s important to provide training to staff on methods and best practices to protect themselves, recognize symptoms associated with insect bites, and administer appropriate first aid if someone gets bitten. Employers need to be aware that not everyone reacts the same way to mosquito bites. In rare cases, it can be severe.

According to the Public Health Agency in Canada, the number of reported Lyme cases in Canada experienced a significant increase from 144 in 2009 to 3,147 in 2021. Preliminary data for 2022 indicates at least 2,168 cases. Given the annual rise in cases, it’s crucial for employers to play a role in safeguarding their employees against ticks. Employers can promote the use of light-colored attire and insect repellent among their staff. Additionally, it’s important for employers to provide education to employees regarding the correct method of tick removal from the skin.

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