Loss Control Insights

Taking the Itch and Sting Out of Summer Work

Heat stress isn’t the only danger facing outdoor workers this summer. They often find themselves in contact with insects and plants that can cause health concerns. EMC Risk Improvement Engineer Kevin Clayton advises knowing the insect and plant exposure risks in your territory.

You can’t rid the world of bees, mosquitoes, snakes and poisonous plants, but you can teach outdoor workers to be aware of their exposure risk and what to do if they encounter these plants and insects. “Start by seeking the expertise of local conservation officers or park commissioners,” suggests Clayton, who reports that the number of claims related to poisonous plants rises every summer. “These are the people who know what risks are present in your specific geographic region.”

“Knowing what to look for is only the first step to reduce the frequency of health-related injuries from insects and poisonous plants,” notes Clayton, who encourages policyholders to educate their outdoor workers using the following tips:

  • Avoid wearing bright colors and perfumes or colognes
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, hats and gloves when working in brushy areas and high grass
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including eye and face protection to reduce exposure to dust and pollen from certain plants
  • ┬áCheck for ticks after you’ve been outdoors

Workers should also be aware of first aid treatments for stings and exposure to poisonous plants. These include:

  • Applying a cold compress or ice pack to reduce the swelling from bites
  • Applying calamine lotion or over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams to lessen itching
  • Washing your skin with cool water immediately after exposure to poisonous plants, scrubbing under your fingernails to prevent the spread of poisonous oils, washing your clothes in hot water and taking a lukewarm bath using an oatmeal bath product

Although most bites and exposures can be managed by these treatments, advise workers to seek a doctor if they have a fever, a severe rash or the rash is on their lips, eyes, face or genital area.

“Knowing how to identify the risks of insects, snakes and poisonous plants and what to do if they are exposed to these hazards will help your workforce be safer, healthier and more productive all summer long,” concludes Clayton.

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This information, including links to other sites, is provided only to bring attention to the potential for exposure. It is not intended for use in the treatment or management of actual exposure and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.