The Minnesota summer is officially here. Perhaps you’re heading up to the cabin this weekend, playing a round of golf with some friends, or simply enjoying the great outdoors. In any of these cases, you’ll likely be exposed to the outdoor elements, which requires protection, especially from humid heat and insects found here in Minnesota and the greater Midwest. And while you take appropriate precautions this weekend to protect you and your family, it’s important you demonstrate the same care for your employees during the week. Here is what you need to know to keep your employees safe from heat stress and mosquito-borne diseases.
Working in extreme temperatures can overwhelm the body’s internal temperature controlling system. When the body is unable to cool itself, heat related stress can result. Heat stress can contribute to adverse health effects, which range in severity from discomfort to death.
There are no specific standards for heat stress, however employers are to provide protection to employees exposed to hazards in the workplace – and heat stress is a hazard. While working in hot weather conditions, the human body may not be able to maintain a normal temperature just by sweating. If this happens, heat-related illnesses may occur. The most serious heat related effect is heat stroke, which can be lethal.
Employers should make sure employees working in intense heat and humidity take scheduled breaks. Emphasis on hydration is critical, water and sports drinks are recommended. Heat stress can be avoided by acclimation. Employees should be introduced to the work schedule slowly and trained accordingly. Employers should engineer controls, where possible, to make the work environment warmer or cooler as necessary.
The risks of mosquito-borne diseases are at their peak when employees work outdoors for long periods of time.
Employees should wear a hat and light-colored clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into boots or socks to prevent mosquito bites. Use insect repellents that provide protection for the amount of time they will be outdoors. Follow directions on the label for use, using repellents containing 20%-30% DEET on their exposed skin and clothing. Reapply repellents as needed.
In addition, employees may use repellents such as Permethrin for greater protection. Permethrin kills mosquitoes and other insects on contact. Permethrin can be used on clothing but should not be used on skin. One application of Permethrin to pants, socks, and shoes typically stays effective through several laundry cycles.
Employees may want to consider purchasing electronic, butane-fueled mosquito repelling equipment. Some of these are portable and can be worn by employees as they move about during the day.
Finally, have your employees learn the symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases. This includes West-Nile and new merging diseases, such as the Zika virus. Common symptoms include: fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), headache, and disorientation, among others.
If an employee develops symptoms of a mosquito-borne disease, have them seek medical attention promptly. Be sure to have them inform their health care provider that they work outdoors in an area where mosquitoes are present.
This blog is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. Content is provided by our professional consulting partners at Integrated Loss Control (ILC).