Zika: An Occupational Hazard
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a public health emergency – an extraordinary development as this was only the 4th time in WHO’s entire history that it issued such a declaration. Anticipated to exceed 4 million cases this year, the virus has spread rapidly, infecting people in more than 20 countries.
Zika, as we have all heard, is a mosquito borne virus which can make people ill but more critically may cause a birth defect resulting in serious developmental problems in newborns and possible temporary paralysis in adults. This is a small bug with a big bite. Therefore, both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have now issued guidelines related to the Zika virus.
With so many construction jobs involving outside work, it is important for contractors to initiate a number of actions to alert and protect their workers:
- Advice: Inform employees of the dangers they face and train them on how they might protect themselves.
- Protect: Encourage workers to wear appropriate clothing that covers their arms, legs and other exposed areas and provide insect repellents.
- Avoid: Get rid of all sources of standing water at the jobsite and reduce mosquito breeding areas.
Because it is anticipated Florida will be one of the states hardest hit by the Zika virus, contractors need to raise their level of concern and treat this as they do other serious workplace hazards. Over 100 people in Florida have already contracted the virus, more than any other state, and with South Florida’s rainy season soon approaching, this number is only expected to rise.