Summer Health & Safety Hazards/Considerations You Need to Know About

When it comes to summer work health and safety, there are a multitude of things to consider, far beyond the usual advice such as, “don’t forget sunscreen if you work outdoors!” and “drink more water on hotter days – especially if you work in a warm environment, like a kitchen!”

Sunny days and the promise of fun in the sun can sometimes induce a casual approach to things and create a shift away from thoughts of due diligence, the well-being of workers, and general health and safety. To keep workers safe through the sunny summer season, think about more than the heat. With the sun’s rays come many, many other potential hazards and dangers. Think of your organization and how many of these hazards could present themselves over the summer months, especially with regard to hiring young, temporary workers. Be proactive; anticipating hazards and controlling them before they result in workplace injuries or illnesses is the cornerstone of an effective health and safety program. Read the list of considerations below, and reflect on how they might apply to your organization.

1. Sunscreen and Hydration

As stated above, safety considerations when working outdoors are about more than wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated; however, these safety tips are important! Working outdoors doesn’t just apply to the jobs we typically think of, such as lifeguards or construction workers. Outdoor work also includes positions such as golf course staff, campground attendants, summer camp counselors, water park workers, servers, parks and recreations workers, etc. – the list goes on and on. What these positions share in common is that they all include some element of outdoor work that takes place during the summer.

It goes without saying that if your job involves working outdoors, that sunscreen and proper hydration are a must. Apply a minimum of SPF 30 prior to your shift and follow the directions on the bottle for re-application guidelines. Even if you’re in and out between a restaurant and a sunny patio, or a clubhouse and the golf course, sunscreen is required. In addition to wearing sunscreen, be sure to stay hydrated. Reusable BPA-free water bottles are the best option – some are now designed to keep water cool for up to eight hours, helping keep you both hydrated and cool on the job.

2. Insect Safety – Mosquitoes and Ticks

Outdoor workers may be exposed to conditions that make getting bitten by a mosquito or tick more likely. Mosquito bites carry the risk of transmitting many diseases, such as West Nile and Zika virus. A bite from an infected tick could cause Lyme disease or several other diseases. Employers must consider risks of bug bites in their general safety program if they are a potential workplace hazard. 

Employers must do what is reasonable to protect outdoor workers from exposure to the risk of occupational illnesses.. The best way to do this is to develop a policy and safety program that educates outdoor workers on the risks of insect bites, and how to avoid them. Leading industry practice suggests that employers with outdoor workers provide insect repellent that contains DEET, and any other PPE deemed reasonable to reduce the risk of exposure.

3. Young Workers and Underage Workers

Minimum age requirements for employment vary by province and industry. Do you know the minimum age requirement in yours? Having this information is essential. Hiring summer help, especially in the restaurant industry or summer camps, typically means hiring young teens. These types of jobs are perfect for a young high schooler. But, be mindful of the different minimum age requirements for employment in your area.

Before hiring young workers, examine the job and what it entails. Ask yourself if a young worker looking for a part-time summer job is mature enough to handle the work. Additionally, decide what the job will pay. Ensure that you are familiar with the laws regarding minimum wages and student wages in your area. If the young worker is going to be working in the service industry, you will also need to know the law about minors who work around, or serve, alcohol. Furthermore, put policies in place to deal with tip-out if the summer staff will be included.

Ontario employers, click here to see the minimum age requirement for employment by industry in Ontario.

4. Driving Vehicles and Other Equipment

Employers are aware that to drive on the roadways, drivers need valid licenses. But, what about operating a motor vehicle on a private campground? What about using an ATV, riding mower, or farm equipment? What about golf carts? Do you see the bigger picture here? Some summer employment positions require driving equipment that may not necessarily be thought of as comparable to driving a car. An employer may not give a second thought to allowing unlicensed summer staff to operate a golf carts, even though they’d never allow them to drive the company car. 

What’s important here is both the legislation in your area with regards to this, and also your company’s own policies. If your company has ATVs, golf carts, vehicles operated on private property, farm equipment, motorized boats, or so on, you need a policy to accompany their use. That policy should clearly state the license(s) required for operation, that no person who doesn’t hold the specific license should operate the vehicle, and a minimum age requirement if applicable. Remember, the minimum age requirement is a minimum, so if your company feels that the minimum is still too young, state the age that you feel is appropriate in your policy.

5. Minimum Age for Serving Alcohol

Each province has rules in place for serving alcohol. In Ontario, workers must be 18 years old, and be Smart Serve certified. Did you know that starting in July 2017 the grace period granted to employers of 60 days to get staff certified is going to be removed? That means that any worker over 18 serving alcohol in Ontario must have a Smart Serve certificate on the day that they start working – not within 60 days after starting work.

For more information about the grace period, please visit here.

If you intend for summer workers to serve alcohol, it is imperative that you comply with provincial laws. Employers may also want to consider whether a younger worker who was hired for other work has the potential to unintentionally serve alcohol. For example, a younger worker hired to pick up garbage and water plants at a golf course gets asked by a busy server to quickly run a drink order out to the 9th green. Eager to help, the worker complies, and your establishment has broken the law. Just like that, you can find yourself stripped of a license. The best way to avoid a scenario like that is to have sound policies in place, and ensure that all servers and managers are trained and understand the consequences of allowing underage workers to serve alcohol.

6. Workplace Violence and Harassment Training

All workplaces in Ontario are obligated to have a workplace violence and harassment policy and program in place. Younger workers and temporary staff may be unaware of their rights in the workplace, and what constitutes workplace violence or harassment (or what doesn’t). Be sure that you include training on your company’s program for all new and temporary summer workers.

Workplace violence and harassment does not just mean workers harassing other workers. The public is the most common source of workplace violence and harassment. If summer employees work with the public, they are at risk. They are also at risk if they deal with money, work alone, or work in an establishment where alcohol is served. Ensure that your program includes steps to keep all workers safe, and that all workers – even those only hired for the summer months – are properly trained on the program.

7. Summertime Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

When you hear the term Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), you may think of fall arrest/restraint harnesses, safety glasses, or hard hats. For staff that works outdoors, PPE could include sunglasses, sun hats, pool goggles, or light breathable clothing. Consider these things your summertime PPE, and don’t work without them!

When hiring summer staff, if you believe that some of the above summertime PPE would help an employee be more comfortable on the job, be sure to let them know about it in their orientation training.

8. Orientation and Basic Health and Safety Training for All Workers

Do not hire summer staff and send them to work without giving them basic orientation training that includes the mandated health and safety training. All workers should complete workplace violence and harassment, any applicable WHMIS training and worker awareness training. These training topics are required by legislation, so be sure to include them. Additionally, ensure that any workplace specific training of equipment is completed.

Orientation training will help workers feel more comfortable and set them up for success. They are only with your organization for a short time, but they will be telling a lot of people about their experiences with your company. Ensure that they make others want to apply next season by offering an orientation-training package that includes health and safety training.

9. Water Safety

Workers who work around water will require special consideration. Lifeguards, camp counselors, water park attendants, and campground staff will all be working in or around water. Proper certification for these different types of water exposure is a must! The certification requirements are different depending on the job. For example, a worker who is hired to guard a public pool may need more advanced certifications and training than a worker who requires minimal certifications to safely take kids canoeing.

For more information, click here to visit the Lifesaving Society’s page for National Lifeguarding Service.

Pools, ponds, and lakes are all ingrained in thoughts of summer – especially summer camp! Don’t assume that all summer workers have basic common sense when it comes to water safety. Refresh training with policies and reminders about running on the pool deck, wearing life jackets in canoes and kayaks, and using the buddy system when swimming.

10. Campsite Safety

Similar to workers who are exposed to water, workers who work in campsites also require some special considerations when it comes to health and safety. Primarily, these workers need to be trained in fire and animal safety. Campgrounds are a great place to get a summer job – the work is truly seasonal, with the peak season being the perfect time for high school students to earn some cash during their summer break. Ontario features many beautiful campgrounds and national parks, and they all need summer help to run efficiently.

Camping wouldn’t be camping without a fire! However, fires can create havoc if left unchecked, or not extinguished correctly. All staff need basic fire safety training, and an understanding of the fire warning system used in your province. In Ontario, if you have a fire in a fire-restricted area, you are breaking the law. Ensure employees understand the conditions under which an area may be restricted. As well, basic training for extinguishing fires and recognizing hazards is crucial to the safety of workers, the establishment, and the environment.

Campgrounds are also prone to some unexpected visitors. They can be as little as chipmunks, or as large as moose or bears, depending where in Canada you are. Employers must develop policies and training specific to the wildlife that staff may encounter. If your establishment is known to be frequented by bears looking to root through campers’ coolers, ensure that staff are aware of what to do – and what not to do – should they encounter one. Develop policies specific to your workplace, and ensure that all workers are trained: permanent, part-time, and temporary.

Conclusion

While summer may seem like the time to kick back and relax a bit at work, the above considerations suggest that for employers, the opposite is true. Summer is the time to get diligent, and get training! Some of the above may not apply to your workplace; however, it would be negligent not to consider how summer and hiring young and/or temporary staff might impact your business.

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator


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