The Perils of the Seasonal Worker
The summer is almost upon us! It’s a time of sunshine, warm weather, vacations, festivals, exhibitions, concerts, Stampede, landscaping, outdoor activities and, of course, construction. It’s also the height of the seasonal workers employment period whether it is extra staff to handle the peak traffic at resorts, camp counsellors, summer students to cover vacations, special event workers or extra hires to complete construction and other projects while the weather permits. With the hire of new employees, whether permanent, temporary or seasonal, safety in the workplace should be an integral part of the onboarding process and ongoing operations. Every season comes with its own unique set of safety issues and concerns that need to be adhered to in order to prevent or minimize workplace injuries and accidents.
Greater Risks for New Hires
A recent study by the Institution for Work & Health(IWH), based on research over a 10 year period, indicates that there is a higher risk of work injury among workers new to a job and virtually every seasonal worker is ‘new’. The risk of a lost time injury in the first month employment was almost three times as high as workers with a year or more experience. The study also suggests that the men over the age of 45, hired to work in areas like construction, were most at risk for a workplace accident or injury. Although this information may not be surprising, the study suggests that workplaces need to do more to ensure new workers get the proper training and supervision to stay safe on the job. As such, workplaces hiring seasonal workers need to pay even greater attention to safety training and education.
Sun Safety for Outdoor Workers
Included in the safety training and education process should be a focus on the unique environmental or seasonal hazards of this time of year. Although not the same as winter, there are still inherent risks of exposure including heat stroke, sun stroke, dehydration, blisters, sunburns and insect bites that can result in work injury claims. The consequences resulting from these hazards are generally minor and mostly preventable through the use of sunscreen, insect repellent, availability of hydrating liquids, access to shade or cooling stations and proper apparel however outdoor workers remain at a higher risk for a far more serious and long lasting affects. Regular exposure to the sun for long periods of time, especially during the peak ultraviolet (UV) radiation hours of noon till 2:00pm, can result in the development of a variety of dermatological conditions including skin cancer. The Canadian Dermatological Association (CDA) National Sun Awareness campaign is currently underway providing excellent information and resources on sun safety.
The good news is that skin cancer and most seasonal related work injuries are preventable, so be prepared, be aware, be safe and enjoy the summer for as long as it lasts.