Spring: Safety Topics - April 2019 Week 1


Springtime is a great time to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family, or start new home projects and renovations. At the same time there are unique safety hazards during this time of year. From plants and insects, to power tools and tornadoes, spring time can be dangerous. This week we’ll talk about what to watch out for to keep you and your family and friends safe while enjoying the fresh air.

Monday, April 1

Bees and Wasps

According to NIOSH, thousands of people in the United States are stung by insects each year, with allergic reactions resulting in hundreds of deaths. However, this number may be underreported as deaths may be mistakenly attributed to other causes. Most individuals only experience minor swelling and pain after a sting, but many can have more severe symptoms.

Insect stings can result in any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain and Redness
  • Swelling (in area of sting and sometimes beyond)
  • Flushing and/or Hives
  • Itching
  • Anaphylaxis

These stinging insects can cause other problems as well. Many people panic at the sight of bees and wasps, which can put the individual in a dangerous situation. For example, a bee enters a vehicle alarming the driver. The driver is no longer paying attention to the road and crosses the center line, running head on into another vehicle. Consider secondary hazards stinging insects can create.

Before performing any work in an area, take a site survey to look for any hazards including bees and wasps. Often, people start performing a task not knowing there is an active hive in close proximity. Avoiding areas where bees or wasps are is the most effective way to prevent stings. If you are allergic to bees or wasps, avoid any work that puts you at risk of being stung. Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible when working in areas where these insects are present, as it is harder to sting through clothing. Always have an EPI pen nearby if you or a coworker is severely allergic to insect stings.

Tuesday, April 2

Lawnmowers and Weed Trimmers

Most of us use lawn mowers or weed trimmers quite often, but do you know the hazards associated with them? According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 60,000 injuries are treated by hospital emergency rooms each year because of unsafe operation of these power tools. Many of these injuries occur at home where improper use often occurs and personal protective equipment is not worn. Using a lawnmower is not often looked at as a hazardous task, but due to the number of injuries they create, following safe practices is necessary.

Here are some tips to help you avoid injury:

  • Read and understand the operation manual before using a lawnmower. Know where the emergency stop is located and be familiar with any other safety features on it.
  • Survey your yard or work area for obstructions and small objects or rocks you may run over.
  • Keep up proper maintenance to help avoid situations such as fires and other mechanical issues that can lead to an incident.
  • Always wear proper PPE. Safety glasses with side shields, long pants, and steel toe boots are some essential PPE to wear when operating a lawnmower.

A weed trimmer is designed to rotate a blade or string at high speeds to cut brush or grass. However, these trimmers often throw stones and other objects at high rates of speed leading to property damage or injuries to bystanders. Evaluate your work area and task and take into account the possibility of these types of incidents occurring due to thrown objects. 

Here are some tips to help you avoid injury:

  • Make sure the guarding is in place on your tool.
  • Stop work when a car or person comes too close to your work area.
  • Wear the proper PPE while using a weed trimmer. Proper PPE includes: safety glasses, a face shield, long sleeve shirt, anti-vibration gloves, long pants, long socks, and safety toe boots that go around the ankle.

Wednesday, April 3


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 640,000 cases of mosquito borne illnesses were reported in the United States from 2004 – 2016.  This number is more than the annual deaths caused by humans and other animals combined.

Obviously mosquitos do not kill using raw power, sharp teeth, or long claws. Instead they kill by passing diseases. There are over 2,500 types of mosquitos and there are large numbers of mosquitos in every single part of the world except for Antarctica. These mosquitos are able to easily pass on their diseases to other carriers who can pass the disease to others.

The viruses carried by these insects that are common in the United States are the West Nile Virus and the Zika Virus. There have been 44,000 cases of West Nile Virus reported since 1999. The West Nile Virus causes flu-like symptoms, but severe illness is commonly seen in the elderly. The Zika Virus is rare in the United States, the CDC reports only 220 locally-acquired cases in total (as of 02/2017). There are many more cases reported in the U.S. due to travelers returning from trips. Zika virus is passed through bodily fluids but also mosquitos if the carrier is bit. Zika is more of a concern for pregnant women, who could pass the virus on to their unborn child causing birth defects.

Here are some tips to help you avoid these illnesses:

  • Use proper insect repellant
  • Wear long sleeves and pants to prevent easy access to your skin
  • Remove standing water from around your home or work areas

While mosquitos and the diseases that they carry are not as big of a concern in the United States, they should be taken seriously. There are diseases that these insects carry that can lead to death. Preventing bites in countries where these diseases are common can help prevent the spread of the diseases to other parts of the world.

Thursday, April 4

Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are extremely common in the United States. The only geographical areas where they are not found are Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of the west coast.  These poison plants are some of the most common triggers for rashes for those who spend time outdoors. For some people, these poison plants do not affect them at all; however, there are many people who are severely allergic to the plants and can end up in the hospital if they are not careful. The best defense against these plants is to know what they look like and how to avoid them. The rashes can be nasty, infectious, and can result in permanent scarring. 

For tips on identifying these poisonous plants: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants/identification.html

First Aid Care

If you think you’ve been exposed to any of these poisonous plants, wash skin immediately with cold water and use an oil reducing soap like dish soap.  Do not make contact with sensitive areas even after washing, as the oil can be spread.  The rash is caused by oil that the plants secrete, so try to contain the spread of this oil. Wet wipes specifically intended for this use after exposure are very common and are handy things to have available during outdoor activities.  Should a rash develop, use a cold compress, calamine lotion, non-prescription hydrocortisone cream, or an antihistamine to ease itching.  Other non-traditional and homeopathic treatments, such as an apple cider vinegar wrap, work well for some people.  Call your doctor if the rash is near your eyes or covers a large part of your body.  Severe reactions may need to be treated with a cortisone injection.

The severity and characteristics of the rash may vary from person to person. The worst symptoms are often seen during days 4 to 7 after coming in contact with the plant and the rash may last for 1 to 3 weeks.  Wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt, boots, and gloves when entering any area where poison ivy is located. Wash any items or tools that may have come in contact with poison ivy. The oils of the plant can remain on the objects for long periods of time potentially causing rashes in humans and animals. Never burn poison ivy to get rid of it. The burning plant can still release oils that could result in a widespread rash for anyone near the fire.

Friday, April 5

Tornadoes and Hail

Tornadoes are a serious threat in many areas of the United States. According to NOAA, there is an average of 1,000 confirmed tornadoes every year in the U.S. Many of these tornadoes occur in the same geographical areas each year but other states occasionally have the right conditions for a tornado.

The top three states that have the highest average of tornadoes a year are Texas, Kansas, and Florida; however, the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado killed over 150 people despite Missouri not being a top state. The Insurance Information Institute reports the average insured loss per year due to tornadoes is $7.78 billion.

Tornado Safety - The first thing to know is the difference between a tornado watch and warning. A watch is when tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. A warning is when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar and there is an imminent danger to life and property in that area. When there is a tornado warning, immediately seek shelter. You do not know if the tornado is 15 minutes away or 1 minute away.

Have a plan for when a tornado threat is in your area. Pick a room in your home where it is safe to go during a tornado. Areas such as basements or an interior room on the lowest floor are the best places to take shelter during a tornado. At work, know how you will be notified by the company that tornado conditions could be in the area. Know if there is a tornado shelter onsite or if your company uses a community shelter. Some companies who do not have a tornado shelter onsite will send everyone home as soon as there is a tornado watch in effect. Knowing what to do and executing the emergency plan is essential to protecting yourself and those around you.

Hail Safety – Often hail comes with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Some hailstones can be as large as baseballs.

  • Large hail can cause serious or fatal injuries. If you are outside, seek shelter immediately.
  • Stay inside and away from skylights and windows.
  • Avoid using phones and electrical appliances during a severe storm.
  • Seek sturdy shelter. Cars are not the best shelter due to the possibility of breaking glass.
  • If you do get caught in a vehicle while on the road, pull over and ride out the storm.  Do not block or obstruct traffic. 
  • If hail is large enough to damage your windshield, cover your eyes or put on some glasses. 
  • If you get caught outside without shelter, cover your head with your arms or another object and seek shelter. 

Discussion points:

  1. Do you have a plan at home for a tornado situation?
  2. What is the severe weather policy at work? (Discuss your company tornado safety plan with the employees)

Tags: safety culture , safety topics , environment ,

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