We can make an educated guess at what sort of dangers are around us at work through observation but what are the less thought of hazards that some jobs need to consider?
In the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 1992 thru 1997, animals inflicted or contributed to 375 fatal work-related injuries. During that time period, it is estimated that around 75,000 nonfatal injuries took place. On average, 63 fatal injuries and 12,500 nonfatal injuries and illnesses involving animals occur each year at work.
In BC a report from CBC in 2017 shows that 70% of wildlife encounters involve black bears dispelling the rumor that grizzlies are the only aggressive bears. The report quotes a staggering 20 000 wildlife conflicts in BC alone, though it’s worth mentioning that this number includes cougar sightings, and while seeing a cougar is always unsettling I am curious about them categorizing it as a conflict
And if you live in alberta you’ll remember sadly with me the tragic Suncor blackbear oilsands attack up north
This is an odd occurrence and is only a concern for a small handful of work sites. Northern oil operations need to aware of wildlife in the area, if you work on a farm you need to know how to handle the animals properly and other fairly straight forward pieces of advice.
You are far more likely to be injured by falling or tripping on a job site than by an animal attack.
This interesting article talks about the dangers of overcomplicating workplace processes saying:
“In simpler workplaces, employees are 31% more likely to bring new ideas to the table, 22% more likely to look for ways to improve themselves and the workplace, 20% more likely to try to learn new things, and 25% more likely to handle unexpected problems well.”
This is an interesting point. And while its primary focus is on productivity the concept easily applies to safety practices. Safety needs to be simple for those using it in the field.
The best way to make sure people practice worksite safety is to make it so easy that it leaves no excuse not to take proper safety measures.
Some simple examples of this would be:
Make PPE mandatory and easily accessible
Toolbox meetings outline things to be aware of each day for workers
Proper and obvious labelling and signage
Showing appreciation for employees who follow safety protocol
Easy and simple workplace procedures
Let’s say your worksite needs to be tested for chemical vapour content in the air before and after every job. Maybe you are entering confined spaces like tunnels for maintenance.
You test every site consistently for 2 years straight and find nothing, so you give up on the testing saying that its a waste of time and an unnecessary step based on your past experience.
One day this team found themselves in a similar situation. They had stopped testing and were over confidant in the absence of invisible hazards. Luckily they had the detector with them when the alarm sounded from the device and signal that they vacate the tunnel. There was a harmful level of hydrogen sulfide in the air.
This near miss could have been avoided by attention to proper safety procedure and a recognition that as humans we can’t always sense the dangers around us.
From the sounds of it this experience altered the perspectives of the workers as well as management in the company on safety standards and practices.
Before I looked into this i was unsure if lice were an insect or not. Turns out they are! I also learned that the singular term for one of them is ‘louse’. Lice is the plural but you rarely find one ‘louse’.
If you have lice STAY HOME and deal with them there. It’s much better than having a company wide email go out telling everyone they need to check themselves for the bugs.
So I always knew these little guys were an issue but after reading the CCOHS post about them I’m kinda terrified of them now. They’re like little vampires that you can’t kill off.
They can be very hard to detect but take precautions if someone at work has them. Keep your work gear separate from the clothes you wear home.
For people working outdoors and especially those working in forested areas, I’m sure you are aware of the risks associated with ticks.
Lyme disease is not a joke and should be prevented by checking yourself on a regular basis for ticks.
You can wear permethrin spray or lotion which is supposed to repel ticks. If you work in a wooded area it’s not a bad idea to take off work clothes and put them directly into the dryer for 15 minutes when you finish work which will kill any ticks that may be on your gear or clothing.
If a tick is found you should remove it whole without breaking the burrowed head off using tweezers. Place the tick in a plastic bag and bring it to be tested for lyme disease a local public health lab.
BEES, WASPS, AND HORNETS
This one most of us are more used to but can pose a real threat to people depending on the allergies they might have.
Watch for signs of a bad reaction to a sting especially swelling in the first half hour. In the case of being stung by a bee, try to resist the urge to brush the bee away.
A bee’s sting has barbs and when it stings it leave a sack of venom attached to the sting. Swatting the bee or trying to pull the sting out of you with your fingers will squeeze the venom into your body. Instead take the edge of a knife or credit card and scrap along the skin across the sting to remove it without further infecting the area.
Luckily the most painful stinging insect we have in Canada is the hornet. At least we don’t have to deal with scorpions or killer bees.
Okay so apparently we do have 1 species of scorpion in canada. The Northern Boreal Scorpion. Excuse me while i lose sleep.
Also Killer bees also known as “Africanized Bees” - “were introduced into Brazil from Africa in 1956 and have gradually spread north. These bees entered the United States in south Texas and are now present in Arizona and California. The bees are expected to continue moving northward. But they do not survive well in cold areas.”
Fingers crossed were safe on the bee front.
Protecting yourself from lightning strikes can be fairly straight forward unless you work in the middle of nowhere with no vehicle to seek shelter in.
It is still a risk though with 6-12 fatal strikes and 60-70 injuries caused by lightning annually in Canada according to CCOHS.
The best place you can be in inside a full building with walls and electrical and plumbing which is likely to ground the strike and prevent serious damage. Still it is best to stay away from conductive materials in the building.
If you find yourself outside and lightening strikes get close enough for you to hear the thunder in under 20 seconds of the strike it is best that you find a low area away from tall beams, trees and away from water. Crouch on the balls of your feet in a ditch or valley. It’s best not to lie flat on the ground.
It’s worth noting that if someone near you is struck they are still safe to touch. They don’t retain any electric charge. Don’t let this fear stop you from performing CPR.
For a more comprehensive list of safety hazards specific to the outdoors check out this OHS article