Protecting Outside Workers

Heat Stress, Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus, Hazardous Plants....these are just some of the danger people who spend the summer working outside face.   Here are a few times for protection yourself and your workers from these hazards.

Heat Stress:   

When heat is combined with other stressors,  such as hard physical labour, loss of fluids, fatigue or some pre-existing medical conditions, it can lead to heat related illness, disability and in extreme cases death.  This is particularly true in early summer before workers have acclimatized to the summer heat.   Things we can do to ease the heat stressors are:

  1. provide shaded work areas or have shaded areas workers can take a rest break in,  
  2. increase the frequency and length of rest breaks, 
  3. schedule strenuous jobs in the cooler times of day,
  4. provide cool drinking water for workers every 20 minutes,
  5. have a buddy system for employees to watch each other for signs overheating,
  6. wear light clothing which allows free air movement and sweat evaporation,

Lyme Disease:

Lyme Disease is caused by bacteria from the bite of Blacklegged or Deer Ticks.  The ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, tall grasses and along the north shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.   For the bacteria to be transmitted the tick must be attached for 24 to 36 hours.   The symptoms can start to show up in as little as three days but could take as long as months afterward.  The symptoms include, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and skin rash.  To avoid ticks:


  1. wear long sleeve shirts and long pants
  2. wear closed footwear with socks
  3. wear light coloured clothing so ticks are easy to spot
  4. tuck your pants into your socks
  5. inspect your body after being in high risk area, especially an areas with hair

West Nile Virus

If you are concerned about West Nile Virus in your workplace discuss it with your supervisor or your JHSC or Health and Safety Rep.   The chances of being infected by mosquitoes is very small.  Some precautions you can take are:

  1. Wear protective clothing.  Mosquitoes are attracted to darker, more intense colours.  Light colour clothing is best
  2. Eliminate breeding sites at your workplace, standing water in yards, parking lots, ditches and flat roofs.
  3. apply mosquito repellent

Hazardous Plants

Hazardous plants can cause painful skin reactions and in some cases long lasting scars.   We are all familiar with poison ivy but there are many other toxic plants like giant hogweed, wild parsnip, poison sumac and stinging nettle.   Some precautions include:

  1. become familiar with what these plants look like
  2. never touch these plants with bare skin
  3. wear the protective clothing your employer has provided
  4. clean your protective equipment thoroughly