Zika has quickly become a credible threat for the American Workforce. No longer isolated to far flung locals, Zika is spreading right here on American soil. The culprit is the infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters, which makes outdoor workers very susceptible to getting bit. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or medicine for Zika. Preventing the bite and eliminating breeding grounds is the best thing you can do right now to avoid Zika.
5 Ways to Keep Workers Safe
Get rid of sources of standing water (e.g., tires, buckets, cans, bottles, barrels) at the jobsite to reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding areas.
Train workers about the importance of eliminating areas where mosquitos can breed at the worksite. This may require daily walk-arounds to check for any sources that may have developed or other changing condition.
Provide insect repellents and encourage their use.
Always follow label precautions when using insect repellent. Be sure to use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient and that provides protection for the amount of time you will be outdoors. Remind workers to reapply to maintain effectiveness. If using sunscreen, make sure to get two separate products since sunscreen needs to be applied more often and in larger amounts than repellant. Apply sunscreen first, followed by the repellant.
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, it is important to consider heat stress on the worker. Encourage lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. This type of clothing protects workers against the sun’s harmful rays and provides a barrier to mosquitoes. Cover exposed skin with clothing, socks and gloves.
Train the workforce on the Blood-Borne Pathogen Standard.
Zika is considered a Blood Borne Pathogen. Making sure your workforce is trained on the standard and knows the methods to reduce the risk is essential to fighting back at Zika. Get your training online here.
Consider reassigning anyone who indicates she is or may become pregnant, or who is male and has a sexual partner who is or may become pregnant, to indoor tasks.
Unfortunately, if Zika is found to be present, it presents the possibility of very serious birth defects for those who are or may become pregnant. The symptoms of Zika in a healthy adult can range from no symptoms at all to fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. These symptoms last about a week and are generally mild. In a few cases however, Zika can trigger paralysis (Guillain-Barré Syndrome). Considering the seriousness of birth defects, it would be wise to reassign higher risk workers to indoor activities or off a jobsite with mosquitos.
New threats to your workforce requires regular checks, diligence, and maintaining an effective Safety and Health Program. Help is available to you online with interactive training for your whole workforce at 360training.com. We even have a low cost Workforce Safety and Compliance Subscription to keep everyone up to date and trained throughout the year. Zika might be here to stay, but being trained and prepared to reduce the risk could very well keep it off your jobsite.
Want to know where ZIKA currently is? Access the CDC map here.