Pennsylvania workers who do their jobs outdoors will likely be happy to welcome the bright and sunny days of summertime. However, it's important to remember that, regardless of the season, working outdoors can pose many environmental hazards. Employers must comply with strict safety regulations prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Safety authorities advise employers to adopt the buddy system by which no one works alone. Workers can check on each other and call for prompt medical treatment in the event of an emergency. If you have to work alone, you will want to take precautions to avoid potential problems when there is no help nearby.
Potential summer hazards
If you know the risks of working outside during summer, you can take extra care to protect yourself, and you will be able to recognize if your co-workers show symptoms of illness. The following hazards are typical for most outdoor workers:
- The sun: The most significant hazard at this time of the year is the sun and potential heat stroke, sunburn and dehydration. Working in direct sunlight causes excessive sweating, which can prevent your body from controlling its core internal temperature. Adequate intake of fluids can re-hydrate your body, and frequent breaks in shaded areas can cool your body down while sunscreen can protect your skin from sunburn.
- Extreme weather: Tornadoes and dangerous lightning strikes can cause catastrophic injuries. Check the weather forecasts, look out for gathering clouds, and move into sheltered areas at the first signs of thunder. If you are not near a building, take shelter in a vehicle or in a low lying, dry area.
- Hazardous plants: If your job takes you to areas where you might make contact with irritating plants, it will help if you can identify poison ivy, poison oak and other rash-causing plants. Wear clothes that cover as much skin as possible, including gloves and closed shoes. Contact with your clothes can cause second-hand reactions, making thorough laundering essential.
- Air quality: Environmental factors that decrease air quality in the summer include airborne debris particles, dust and allergens. Poor air quality can cause respiratory problems and exacerbate existing conditions like asthma. The risks are highest during the hottest time of the day.
- Insect bites: The consequences of bites by mosquitoes, ticks and other insects can cause anything from skin irritations to serious diseases. While insect repellents might be effective, they could also cause allergic reactions.
You might find comfort in knowing that you can recover any medical expenses and a portion of lost wages if you fall victim to any of these summer hazards. Filing a benefits claim with the Pennsylvania workers' compensation insurance program is the first step in this process, and you have the right to choose to utilize the services of legal counsel to help you navigate these claims. An experienced attorney can also help you fight for your rightful benefits in the event that your claim is wrongfully denied.