It’s summertime and the living is easy – to a point. For many of BC’s tourism and hospitality employees, summer means working outside, hosting guests outside, or supervising people who do.
Whether that means running a zip line, operating a fishing charter, or serving drinks on a patio, everyone working outside needs to be aware of the season’s safety hazards.
Topping the list are the dual hazards of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and heat. UV radiation can put workers at risk of sunburn, skin damage, skin cancer and eye conditions, while excessive heat can lead to everything from cramps, rashes and dehydration to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat can affect indoor workers too, as bakers and laundry workers can attest.
A few precautions can help keep both staff and guests safe during even the hottest, sunniest days:
- Take frequent breaks in the shade.
- Drink water every 15 minutes even if you are not thirsty.
- Cover up. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, clothing, especially tightly-woven or UV-protective labelled clothing, provides better protection than sunscreen. Lightweight, loose-fitting clothes in light colours are the coolest.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim and protect your eyes with close-fitting sunglasses with full UVA/UVB protection.
- Use a broad-spectrum, water resistant, sunscreen with an SPF (skin protection factor) of at least 30. And don’t forget the SPF 30 lip balm. Reapply both frequently.
- Be especially sun safe between 11 am and 3 pm when the UV index is at its highest.
- Take it easy on your first few days of work in the heat; it takes time to adjust.
- Keep an eye on fellow workers and guests. Anyone experiencing headache, dizziness, cramps, nausea or exhaustion needs immediate medical attention.
In British Columbia we share the outdoors with a wealth of insects, including mosquitos and ticks. Here’s how to keep them at a distance:
- Apply a repellent containing icaridin (also known as picaridin), DEET, lemon-eucalyptus oil, or soybean oil.
- Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin; apply in small amounts and only when needed. Don’t apply it over cuts or sunburns.
- Don’t use sprays in enclosed areas or near food.
- Reapply repellent after sweating or getting wet.
- If you’re also using sunscreen (and you should) apply sunscreen first, followed by repellent.
- Once you’re back indoors, wash off the repellent with soap and water.
- Long sleeved shirts, long pants and hats can protect you from bugs as well as from the sun.
Repellent won’t, however, deter stinging insects such as wasps and bees. The best protection from these is to wear closed shoes or boots along with long pants and long sleeved shirts in light colours. Also tie your hair back and avoid scents, which can attract insects. Check for nests before starting work and be aware that power tools can disturb wasps and bees.
For most people, a wasp or bee sting is a painful annoyance, but for anyone with an allergy a sting can be lethal. Call 911 immediately if anyone shows signs of anaphylactic shock, including hives, itching and swelling, swollen eyes and eyelids, wheezing, difficulty breathing, a hoarse voice or dizziness. Also seek help if the sting was near the eyes, nose or throat. If a worker or guest has a known allergy they should carry a bee sting kit (self-injectable epinephrine) and co-workers should be trained in how to use it.
It looks set to be a great summer. Enjoy it, and stay safe out there.