For as many advantages there are for working outdoors in the summer (think warm sunshine and fragrant flowers), there are hazards—insect bites and skin rashes, to name just two. Your job may require you to get up close and personal with nature in a park or forest; perhaps you serve your customers outside when the weather is right. Either way, it’s important you’re aware of the wildlife you come in contact with—or rather, the wildlife that comes in contact with you!
Here’s an overview of the summer occupational hazards of venomous insects and snakes and poisonous plants, with tips and resources for where to learn more.
Venomous Wildlife and Insects
Even when you’re not at work, you’re probably shooing away any number of garden-variety pests like bees, wasps, hornets, and mosquitos whenever you’re outside. But what if your job puts you in close proximity to scorpions, black widow spiders, ticks, or rattlesnakes? Unless you’ve received specialized training or are well versed on the precautions, you may not see them coming and could be at risk for harmful—or deadly—stings and bites.
Things you can do to stay safe:
- Know how to ID them. If you’re outside and there’s any possibility you or a coworker will come in contact with an unfriendly insect or snake, do your homework so you can spot the dangerous species.
- Clothing tips: wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothing; avoid bright colors and floral patterns; and tuck pants into socks or long boots for extra protection.
- Avoid wearing perfumed body products.
- Stay dry: sweat can anger bees.
- Keep work areas clean from food or other debris that might attract critters.
- Shake out clothes and shoes before putting them on and when taking them off; same goes for equipment, tools, and towels you use on the job.
- Carry an EpiPen if you have a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings; keep tetanus boosters up-to-date
- Be extra diligent when you’re in tall grasses, piles of leaves, or brush.
- Use repellants (such as DEET) in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and community standards.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Insects
Insect Identification.org—Identifying Insects
Snake Removal—Identifying Venomous Snakes
Anyone who has taken an innocent hike down a nature trail has been warned about poison ivy. It’s not child’s play—when oil from poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac plants are ingested or come in contact with skin, you can get contact dermatitis that might prevent you from working. It can even remain on surfaces for weeks or months. And burning of these plants can cause dangerous lung irritation via direct or indirect contact or inhalation.
Things you can do to stay safe:
- Know how to ID them. If you’re outside and there’s any possibility you or a coworker will come in contact with a poisonous plant, do your homework so you can spot the dangerous species.
- Minimize skin exposure when walking among plants by wear long sleeves, long pants, boots, and gloves.
- Slather on barrier skin creams containing bentoquatum
- Clean your tools and clothing after use
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Plants
Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants