As the weather has heat up we all need to remain focused on summer-related safety. Across the Carolinas we have seen some very high temperatures recently. This time of year often means holidays, vacations and outdoor fun, but history tells us that more accidents occur in the summertime than the rest of the year. Many people refer to the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day as the “100 Deadly Days of Summer”. Let’s take a few minutes to think about some of the hazards, and why we cannot take any vacations from safety.
Heat-Related Illness: The first and most obvious issue is the increased temperature and sun exposure. Drink plenty of water starting in the morning and stay hydrated all day. Recognize the signs of heat stroke: sweating stops, throbbing headache, dizziness, hot and dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Cover up exposed skin with clothing, hats, and sunscreen.
Snakes, Wildlife, and Domestic Animals: Most snakes are not poisonous and present little threat, but be familiar with the poisonous snakes in your area. When you see a snake the best thing to do is simply leave them alone, and stay away. Livestock and dogs can pose a serious threat, so be aware of animals that might be behind a fence if you have to access those areas for work. Before walking or working in an area look around for hornet and wasp nests. It is better to spot them first than to be attacked while working, especially if you are working aloft.
Tick Prevention: Wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and pants. Avoid underbrush and tall grass when possible. Use insect repellent and inspect yourself for ticks after coming indoors. If you find an attached tick, remove it by slowly pulling with tweezers as close to your skin as possible. Write down the date of the tick bite. It is also a good idea to keep the tick in a small plastic bag in the freezer should you need it later. Watch the area for infection, and see a physician if you get a rash in that area. Remember, deer ticks can carry Lyme disease. Check out the Center for Disease Control’s webpage for more information on tick borne illnesses.
Poisonous Plants: Poison ivy and poison oak are often found where we play and work. Should you be exposed to them and develop a rash, it’s usually only a minor discomfort that will go away. If you are exposed, you can probably avoid the symptoms if you wash the plant’s chemical (urushiol) off with soap and water within 15 minutes.
Vegetation and Power Lines: Another potential danger that you could encounter is overhead power lines that may be hidden by vegetation. It is mandatory that non-line clearance certified workers keep all body parts, tools, and other conductive objects, including cut vegetation, at least 10’ away from all power lines. You can be killed through indirect contact with power lines if you are holding a limb or tool and it touches an energized wire. A common misconception is that power lines are insulated to prevent electrocution, but they are not. Perform a thorough inspection of all trees before beginning to work on or around them. Anytime you have concerns about trees and power or gas lines contact the utility company.
These are just of few of the potential hazards we can be exposed to in the summer, but there are many more. Don’t leave safety at work, because it is just as important at home. Stay safe this summer, so that when you do go on that summer vacation you are healthy to enjoy it.
-- Written by: Tom Johnson, Distribution System Forester for Duke Energy