Although working outdoors can be significantly rewarding, and provide a feel of independence and freedom, safety measures must be considered. Sectors such as agriculture, construction and forestry can come face to face with hazards that other fields don’t need to prepare for.
Ensuring that all workers are safe whilst pursuing tasks requires careful and structured planning from managers to make sure there’s no room for danger.
Here at Cornerstone Projects Ltd, we’ve assessed and collaborated the most significant dangers workers can face each season, and how they can be avoided.
Spring: Allergies and Wet Conditions
This season can have sunny spells, but the unpredictability of spring weather means that there’s a chance of slippery patches, amongst other challenges:
Spring is synonymous with allergens. Workers with allergies can seriously suffer as the pollen count begins to climb. Wearing masks to minimise exposure or preparing the day with antihistamines can be good precautions to take. It can also affect vital senses like eyesight which can have disastrous consequences if compromised. Thus, eye protection should also be considered.
Spring showers can make worksites slippery and increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Site managers should make sure that there’s a proper drainage system and enforce the use of slip resistant footwear.
The weather can fluctuate all throughout spring, so dressing in easily removable layers can help adapt to sudden changes throughout the day. Employers should always provide guidance and information on proper clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Summer: Heat Exhaustion and Hydration
Summer brings its own set of challenges which are predominantly related to extreme heat. Protecting outdoor workers during warmer months requires attentiveness and careful preparation beforehand:
It can be incredibly easy to get a heat-related illness and not even realise – which is why it’s so important to become educated on the signs. By learning the tell-tale symptoms of heat stroke, stress, or exhaustion you could also be saving your colleagues life too. Regular breaks in the shade, and lightweight, breathable clothing are all must-haves when working directly in the sun.
Without even realising, your body can become severely dehydrated when doing hard labour in the sun, due to the increased amount of sweat you produce. It might seem obvious, but having water accessible to you at all times can be the difference between you and a bad accident. Dehydration can cause dizziness, nausea and fatigue which can lead to loss of concentration and consciousness.
Don’t be fooled by grey clouds – harmful UV rays can still affect skin and cause burns or eyesight issues. If possible, low maintenance eye protection like photochromic lenses, and hats that protect your head will provide a more comfortable working condition. Employers should regularly remind people to apply and reapply sunscreen each day.
Autumn: Debris and Colder Breezes
It’s uncommon for Autumn to jump straight into cold weather, but the drop in temperature can certainly be a surprise, and might bring a few storms:
It’s best to always be prepared for spontaneous showers, so waterproof layers that are easily accessible can be beneficial. If workers are needing sturdy grips when working from a height, gloves should be the first point of protection in case of numbness or irritation from the cold.
All employers and team leaders should have a sturdy plan in place in case of storm warnings. This should cover all extreme weathers like torrential rain, strong winds and the possibility of lightning. Designating a shelter area will allow workers to feel safe knowing they have a point of protection.
Tree debris and foliage:
In some industries such as forestry and landscaping, falling leaves and debris can cause surfaces to become slippery and unsafe. Tripping hazards as well as falling hazards should be taken into consideration and proper cleaning maintenance should be scheduled.
Winter: Extreme Weather and Darkness
Winter can be one of the most challenging times for outdoor workers, due to the possibility of extreme snow and ice. This month requires maximum protection:
Having the ability to identify signs of irritation from the cold can stop consequences turning severe. Knowing how to spot frostbite, hypothermia and fatigue allows for others to feel safer working in a group. Extra protective can help to combine comfort and safety.
Icy conditions can make it incredibly dangerous to travel at speed on roads, especially later during the day with little visibility. If you’re transporting chemicals or tools, the likelihood of a spillage needs to be minimised as much as possible. Extra lighting, reflective stickers for vehicles and a safe speed will help to mitigate any risks.
Days will get shorter as less sunlight becomes available, so providing and taking advantage of reflective clothing is a must. If conditions become unsafe to work in, and workers are put in danger, halting a workday must be an option to avoid serious injury.
The unpredictability of the weather means that safety plans may not always be accurate, but by analysing common patterns in temperature changes and potential hazards, workers and managers alike can feel safer in operating in these different conditions.
Companies should consider using a risk management system to break down any potential hazards that can occur as workers move from season to season.
To learn more about managing safety in construction, check out our series of articles here.
Special thanks to Lily Meyers from The Writers Diary for producing this article.
Brought in to help take the business to the next level, Jim’s role is to improve lead generation and customer satisfaction from over 3,500 registered clients. Jim loves interacting with potential and existing clients and has a wealth of marketing and sales experience through his previous roles at O2, the RAC and TalkTalk. Jim holds a BA (Hons) Business Studies degree majoring in Marketing. He has also become a regular visitor to the UEFA Champions League final of late 😉