May tends to bring warmer springtime temperatures, which means more people will head outside in their downtime. We previously recommended delivering workplace toolbox talks on motorcycle safety since May is national bike month, as well as clean air month, mental health month, electrical safety month, and host to NAOSH Week. But what about the other safety measures workers should be taking off the job? Here are a few topics that lend themselves to May to keep workers safe off the job and will ensure they return to work safe and healthy.
National Safe Boating Week
National Safe Boating Week takes place every year for the full week before Memorial Day Weekend. Since a significant percentage of people partake in boating recreationally, talking about off-the-job safety skills for boating can ensure workers return to work safely after a weekend on the water. Why not talk to workers about putting together an emergency kit for their watercraft?
A secured or unsinkable emergency boating kit should be on board at all times so that boaters can respond to an emergency immediately. We’ve posted about the importance of having emergency kits elsewhere, but when on the water boaters often don’t have access to the same things as they do on land.
The emergency boat kit is similar to the emergency car kit breakdown that was posted in the February off-the-job safety post. Use the list of items below to communicate how to create an emergency kit for the water to your employees.
Extra clothes, extra shoes, weather gear, hat
In the event your clothes/shoes get wet, you’ll want to take them off and put dry ones on. Wet or damp clothes will draw heat out of your body more quickly. Weather gear including a raincoat, a warm jacket, and a sun hat can make a world of difference when you’re on the water.
UV rays are harmful even if the sun isn’t out. The water is a reflective surface that amplifies the UV rays and a cool breeze on the water can hide how hot the sun is. Reapplying sunscreen while on the water is arguably more important than anywhere else.
Flashlight with extra batteries
A flashlight will not only help you see at night, but it can also signal for help so that rescuers have a better chance of finding you. In addition to the flashlight attached to your PFD, you should keep an emergency flashlight in your kit.
Rope and knife
Beyond what you have in your standard emergency kit, it’s never a bad idea to have an extra braided rope on board your boat in the event of an emergency. You may need to tie to another boat to pull you to shore. It’s also a good idea to keep a knife—sharp enough to cut rope—in your emergency kit in case you need it.
Candle in a deep can and strike-anywhere matches
The candle is not only good for a romantic dinner, it can be a source of light, a source of heat in the cabin and can also help warm up food in the event of an emergency. Strike-anywhere matches can be ignited on any hard surface. On a boat, you may want to invest in waterproof matches, just in case.
Communication devices and chargers
Communication devices like cell phones, weather radios, etc. are vital to surviving on the water. Ensure devices can be charged in the event of an emergency, and keep solar chargers in waterproof containers aboard the boat. Ensure chargers are fully powered and ready to charge the devices in the event you become stranded. Apps like What3Words: Navigation & Maps, BoatUS and KnowWake can help emergency personnel find you, keep you informed of changing weather, and help you find what you need out on the water.
Non-perishable food items are easy to store on your boat with a can opener and can be a lifesaver in an emergency situation. A candle can be used in combination with a steel cup to boil water for instant meals, so be sure to keep these items together as part of your emergency kit.
Water is essential for survival and even though you’re surrounded by it, chances are it’s not the kind of water you can drink safely. Since you never know if or when you’ll be stranded, it’s always a good idea to take water with you before every trip. Water purification tabs can turn any surface water into drinking water (keep an empty bottle for collection of water, just in case).
A fire extinguisher and first-aid kit are vital to emergencies and are required on most vessels. But a standard first-aid kit will not suffice on the open water. You can buy marine kits that are geared more towards being on the water. Regardless of the type of first-aid kit you have on board, ensure you have:
- Painkillers (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen)
- Antihistamine tablets for allergic reactions or motion sickness
- Hand sanitizer
- Antiseptic wipes
- Antibiotic cream or ointment + Band-Aids
- Sunburn treatment
- Anti-diarrhea medication
- Insect sting treatment
- Lubricating eye drops
- Tweezers for splinters
- Cold pack
- Heat-reflecting blanket
Human-powered craft (like canoes, kayaks and even stand-up paddle boards) require smaller emergency kits. Assess your situation before you embark on a water journey and stock your vessel accordingly.
It should go without saying, but with the ever-present risk of complacency, remind employees about the importance of having personal floatation devices for each person on board and using them consistently.
Sun Awareness Week
Sun Awareness Week is recognized during the first week of May in the UK and many other parts of the world, and with good reason. May is often a time when people forego putting on sunscreen because the temperatures have just started to become warmer and they don’t see the sun as a threat just yet. But it doesn’t have to be hot outside for the UV rays to give someone a sunburn. According to the CDC, unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Being proactive by continually putting on sunscreen will not only prevent a sunburn, but it could potentially save your life.
This topic should be discussed regularly as it’s easy to become complacent about the risks of the sun. We have a number of posts you can look at for inspiration, including:
- Should Sun Protection Be Required PPE?
- 4 Easy Ways to Implement a Sun Safety Program in Your Workplace
- Six Degrees of Sunscreen
- Additional PPE Considerations for Summer Weather
- Why It’s Just as Important to Wear Sunscreen in the Winter as it is the Summer
Talk to your workers about the importance of sun protection both on and off the job. Skin cancer is something that develops over time so protection 24/7 is vital to your workers’ health.
Most importantly, stress the fact that you care about your employees while you deliver these off-the-job safety talks. You’ll be amazed by the response you get from your employees when you continually reinforce that you care about their well-being.