Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Worker Exposure to Zika Virus
Concern about the Zika virus is everywhere. News reports show pictures of babies born with horrible birth defects after they were exposed to Zika during pregnancy. There has been concern about athletes who attended the Rio Olympics in Brazil and several cases of Zika have occurred in the Miami, Florida area.
The Zika virus is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can become infected when they bite infected persons and can spread the Zika virus to other persons they subsequently bite. Currently there is no vaccine. Symptoms include rash, joint pain and red or pink eyes. Muscle pain and headache may also occur. These symptoms are usually mild and are gone in a few days to a week.
Outdoor workers may be at the greatest risk of exposure to Zika virus. It is important that employers and workers be aware of Zika and take steps to prevent exposure. Because of the threat to pregnant women, employers should consider reassigning to areas of low exposure anyone who indicates she is or may become pregnant, or who is male and has a sexual partner who is or may become pregnant.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends these actions for employees who work outside:
- Inform workers about their risks of exposure to Zika virus through mosquito bites, and train them how to protect themselves.
- Provide insect repellents containing EPA-registered active ingredients and encourage their use.
- Provide workers with, and encourage them to wear, clothing that covers their hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin. Consider providing workers with hats with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck.
- In warm weather, encourage workers to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers exposed skin. This type of clothing protects workers against the sun’s harmful rays and provides a barrier to mosquitoes. Always provide workers with adequate water, rest, and shade, and monitor workers for signs and symptoms of heat illness.
- Get rid of sources of standing water (e.g. tires, buckets, cans, bottles, barrels) when possible to reduce or eliminate areas where mosquitoes can lay eggs. Train workers about the importance of eliminating standing water at the worksite.
- If requested by a worker, consider reassigning workers who indicate they are or may become pregnant, or male workers who have a sexual partner who is or may become pregnant, to indoor tasks to reduce their risk of mosquito bites.
Workers should do the following to reduce the risk of contracting Zika virus:
- Use insect repellents containing EPA-registered active ingredients.
- Wear clothing that covers hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin. Wear hats with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck. Wear socks that cover the ankles and lower legs.
- In warm weather, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers exposed skin. This type of clothing protects workers against the sun’s harmful rays and provides a barrier to mosquitoes. Drink plenty of water, take rest breaks in shaded areas, and watch for signs and symptoms of heat illness including in coworkers.
- Get rid of sources of standing water (e.g., tires, buckets, cans, bottles, barrels) whenever possible to reduce or eliminate areas where mosquitoes can lay eggs.
- CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women in areas with Zika transmission. Talk to your supervisor(s) about outdoor work assignment(s) if you are or may become pregnant, or, for male workers, if your sexual partner is or may become pregnant.
- If symptoms develop, seek medical attention promptly. Discuss any possible exposure to mosquitoes or infections spread by mosquitoes with a healthcare provider.
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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