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Feature Article: Get Ready for Summer Workplace Safety

Posted on 5/3/2011 by James Griffin

The summer months will soon be upon us. This means that we will soon be faced with managing outside workplace safety issues. In the great outdoors, some of the hazards we will need to navigate are soot and air pollution, the cancer-causing ultraviolet rays of the sun, heat stress, poison ivy and other toxic plants, insect-borne diseases, and dangerous wildlife.
 
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has safety standards for ladder safety, fire exits, noise exposure, arc welding, chemical exposures, and many other hazards, in their 40 year existence they have not created any official safety standards for heat stress, UV exposure, poison ivy, or other hazards unique to outdoor workplaces.
 
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has safety standards for ladder safety, fire exits, noise exposure, arc welding, chemical exposures, and many other hazards, in their 40 year existence they have not created any official safety standards for heat stress, UV exposure, poison ivy, or other hazards unique to outdoor workplaces.
 
 
Even though OSHA has not created any official safety standards, employers are still obligated under the General Duty Clause to identify any hazardous conditions in the workplace and mitigate those hazards before any harm comes to employees.
 
In the absence of a formal standard, OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have discussed outdoor work hazards and appropriate mitigation methods in a series of guidance documents (see below for a selection).
 
While employers are generally required to provide necessary personal protective equipment at no cost to employees, they are never required to provide “…ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen.” [29 CFR 1910.132(h)] This means that even though many of the hazards unique to outside work (sun exposure, heat stress, biting insects, poison oak, etc.) can be safely managed by wearing appropriate clothing (light colored, loose fitting, full coverage) and the appropriate use of insect repellant and sunscreen, employers are not required to provide any of these items.
 
Although there are unique hazards associated with outdoor work, many of the workplace hazards found indoors can also be found on the grounds. Powered equipment, electrical lines, or chemical exposures are just as dangerous outside as in. You and your employees must comply with all applicable General Industry Standards at all times whether you are working indoors or outside.
 
References:
 

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