Locator Safety & Appreciation Week (LSAW) is a celebration of utility locators’ hard work and an acknowledgment of the hazards they face every day in the field. Locators play crucial and often underappreciated roles in protecting the public and our underground infrastructure. Take some time this week to thank a locator in your life! We’ll be sharing locator safety content throughout the week to spread awareness of the difficult work they perform. Learn more about LSAW and how to participate at locatorsafety.com.
Locator Safety Hazard: Climate & Weather
One of the perks of locating can be the changing, outdoor nature of the position. You won’t find any florecent lighting, beige walls, or cramped cubicles working in the field. Unfortunately, for every crisp day in the fall, there’s a chance for an extreme weather condition. Two of those extremes, heat and cold, can be prepared for. Here’s how:
Heat and Sun Exposure
Outdoor workers are regularly exposed to a greater risk of ultraviolet radiation, and locators are no exception. Locators are often required to stand in direct sunlight as they do the important work of marking underground utility lines. This high UV exposure can be directly linked to increased risk of skin cancers, photoaging, and precancerous lesions if the proper precautions are not taken. Here are a few steps vigilant locators take to protect themselves on the job:
Hats and bandanas
Wide-brimmed or foreign legion-style hats provide the fullest coverage of the head, face, and neck. If workers are required to wear a hard hat or only have access to billed hats, a bandana can be used to cover and protect the back of the neck.
Sunglasses not only protect workers from eye strain and fatigue, they also guard the eyes and eyelids form dangerous UV exposure that can lead to cataracts on the eye lens and skin cancers on the eye lids.
The most crucial tool locators use to protect themselves from the dangers of sun exposure is a broad spectrum, high SPF rated sunscreen. Sunscreens with an SPF rating of at least 30 are recommended, SPF 50 for workers with sun sensitivity or a history of skin cancer. It’s also important to remember to frequently replenish sunscreen as sweating occurs.
Direct sunlight often goes hand-in-hand with warm conditions, leaving locators with the tricky balancing act of sun protection vs heat exposure. Locators can mitigate this issue with loose, long sleeved shirts that offer a collar for neck protection. The long-sleeved shirt, worn over a t-shirt, can be opened for cooling air flow.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends outdoor workers receive a skin cancer screening with a dermatologist at least once a year. Workers with a personal or familial history of skin cancer should be screened at more frequent intervals. Self-examinations can also be performed in between screenings. A guide to self-exams can be found at: https://www.skincancer.org/early-detection/self-exams/)
In addition to taking these precautions, locators can utilize the Heat Safety Tool app created by the U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA. The app enables workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index of a worksite as well as the associated risk level. The app also provides specific protective measures, many of them found above, to take with the risk level in mind. The app is available for download on Android and iOS devices: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html)
Locators in Northern climates have the additional concern of cold weather to consider and prepare for. Tickets and marking don’t come to a halt when the cold winds start to blow. Problems caused by cold weather, or “cold stress”, range from hypothermia to trench foot. These tips can ensure workers are never left vulnerable to the elements:
The first step in preparing for the cold is knowing when to expect it. It’s important for locators to know the wind chill temperature and to monitor the forecast for potential winter storm warnings. Get to know your Winter weather terms at: https://www.weather.gov/otx/Winter_Weather_Terms
Appropriate dress is variable to the specific conditions a locator finds on site, but a few rules ring true in any cold weather. Dress in layers, choose a warm base layer, wear footwear designed to prevent ice slips, and pay particular attention to the hands, feet, and head.
Wetness, even dampness from body sweat, can cause massive heat loss from the body and accelerate the dangerous route to hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.