Spring has a dual personality. As winter fades, the sun is shining more, the breezes are warmer, and April showers really do bring May flowers. But those same showers also reflect the darker side to spring – harsh and violent storms. Not only do rain and lightning storms increase in frequency as the warmer months approach, North America’s deadly tornado season spans from April to June. While avoiding injury from these storms can be as simple as staying indoors, for those whose jobs require working outside, staying safe can be a challenge. One study by the Bureau of Labor statistics noted that eleven job-types classified as “outdoor work” made up a third of the reported job-related fatalities. So as spring storm season revs up, workers should understand the variety of hazards they may face.
Particularly for utility and construction workers, high winds can prove deadly. And the worst part of wind is its unpredictability. A mildly windy day can suddenly be broken by a violent wind shear that collapses structures, downs trees and power lines, and turns small items into dangerous projectiles. Even typically monitored major wind events, such as tornados, can catch an outdoor worker off guard. Field or remote workers who fail to keep informed and connected via radio are particularly at risk during such storms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, lightning is responsible for about 80 deaths and hundreds of injuries a year. And workers account for approximately one-third of those hit by lightning. While many employers have procedures in place to protect workers, just like wind, lightning is unpredictable. Most workers “struck” by lightning were not actually directly hit. Often, the current traveled away from the strike site, through the ground or objects to hit a worker some distance away. Workers under “safe” cover can be hit, or the tools/materials they are holding can conduct the electricity into them. Additionally, workers are at risk from fires caused by lightning.
With storms come rain. And even small amounts of rain multiplies the risk to outdoor workers. The hazards are numerous. For drivers and road crew, decreased visibility and slicker roads drastically increases the likelihood of accidents. Even in above freezing temperatures, wet clothing or skin can lead to hypothermia. Especially in construction sites, large amounts of rainfall can cause partially-built structures like buildings, tunnels and ditches to collapse on workers. Similarly, sanitation and construction crews must worry about flash flooding in drainage areas and tunnels. Even small amounts of fast moving water can sweep not just grown adults off their feet, it also easily pushes large trucks off of roads. In addition, as the water travels, it can pick up debris, snakes and insects which workers must be mindful of avoiding. But among the most frequent worker injuries during wet weather: slips and falls. Slippery surfaces increase the likelihood of falls ranging from minor to deadly.
When inclement weather is present, workers can improve their safety by familiarizing themselves with potential dangers and by adhering to the safety guidelines set in place by their employer and the law. Those with concerns regarding their safety should consider contacting their human resources department, labor representative, or a safety organization such as OSHA. Additionally, workers who have been injured may contact a Chicago workers compensation lawyer who can assist them with obtaining medical treatment and benefits.
About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation lawyer,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.