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Controlling your risk by Bob Carruth

As Risk Control Manager for the NCACC, Bob Carruth manages the operation of the Risk Control Team for the Risk Management Pools. The team assists members with development of safety policies and programs and identification of liability exposures and controls. Carruth is a Certified Safety Professional and is certified as an Associate – Risk Management.  For archives of this column click here

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Aug 02

Plan for Outdoor Hazards, Part I

Posted on August 2, 2012 at 10:02 AM by Todd McGee

When most North Carolinians think of summer, they think of backyard cookouts, lying on the beach, hiking in the mountains, or tending to a yard or garden. Although we are blessed here in North Carolina with being able to be outside most of the year, summertime in the South brings about some safety challenges, especially for folks who work outdoors.
Because the summertime outdoor environment can be unforgiving, over the next couple of months we will share some of the most common hazards, and give you some tips on how to keep yourselves, your employees, and groups with which you may interact safe from outdoor perils.
Weather
Yes, it’s hot. That’s why summer is so much fun, but the heat can cause several problems, including sunburn, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration. You should remember to stay hydrated when outdoors, and keep plenty of fluids with you. Water is the original soft-drink
 Although certain malt beverages are thought to be synonymous to outdoor fun, excessive consumption can lead to dehydration and possible injury. Try to schedule your heaviest outdoor activities in the early morning, when the weather is cooler. In addition to being hydrated, keep sunscreen with you and use liberally when working or playing outdoors.
Finally, be aware of the other summertime weather hazard – the thunderstorm. Many are killed each year in the U.S. due to lightning strikes. Before beginning an outdoor excursion, do yourself a favor and check the weather forecast. If there is a high likelihood of electrical storms, you may want to delay your activity or at least make a plan to seek shelter should a storm threaten.
Varmints
“I don’t like spiders and snakes,” legendary country crooner Jim Stafford once sang, and by now you are singing over and over again in your head. You do need to be aware of the creatures with which you share the great outdoors. Spider bites can be both painful and disabling. Although poisonous snakes are decreasing in numbers in our state, the copperhead is still ever present (Isn’t this our state snake?). Although the bite is rarely fatal, it can still be disabling, and you should treat any bite as a medical emergency. Take extra care when clearing brush or leaves, or when moving debris piles, as these are often hiding places for spiders and snakes.
There are, however, other varmints that you need to be aware of as well. Although rabies is not as prevalent as it used to be, it can affect any mammal, and can be spread to dogs, cats and humans. The most common animals that carry the rabies virus include the raccoon, skunk, bat and fox; however, any mammal can have it. The best rule of thumb is to avoid any wild animal, and report any suspicious animal to your local animal control department. Also, avoid handling baby animals, as they can look innocent, but may already be infected. Finally, do not pick up carcasses of dead animals without wearing gloves. The virus may still be present, and you can become infected.
Although we may accept bee stings as a rite of summer, for many individuals, they can be deadly. The most important advice is always carry your auto-injector if you are allergic to bee stings, and have an extra one that you provide to your supervisor or keep nearby. It can be a life-saver.
With all of these situations, planning is critical. Since you are outside, often away from shelter or convenience, you cannot take for granted that water will always be there, first aid will be immediately available, or that the sun and heat will take a break for the day. Be prepared for the perils that you will face when outdoors this summer. It will make your sojourn so much more enjoyable, and may even keep you healthy and alive. Next month, I will talk a little about power tools, poisonous plants and water safety.
If you need any assistance in reviewing your safety procedures in relation to the outdoor safety of your employees, please feel free to contact your regional risk control specialist, check out our safety resources library or contact our office at  (919) 719-1117, and we will be happy to help you with your particular issue.