Bugs, Insects, and Poisonous Plants
What’s the Issue?
Outdoor workers enjoy the healthful, stress-reducing benefits of exercise while ensuring facility grounds stay well manicured. However, with the benefits of working outdoors come dangers that must be considered.
“Each year nearly 100 Americans die due to insect allergies”1 and the sometimes deadly allergic reaction to venom deposited after a bite or sting. Many poisonous plants cause severe skin reactions and become deadly if ingested. Other poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac pose a potentially deadly inhalation hazard if the plants are burned.
Employees working outdoors must contend with a variety of exposures and potential hazards. Providing appropriate training, personal protective equipment (PPE), protective barriers, and engineering controls may make a physically demanding task safer for them.
Types of Bugs, Insects, and Plants
Employees working outdoors and those responsible for grounds work may come in contact with a variety of potentially hazardous plants, bugs, and insects while performing their duties. A few examples of these include:
Poisonous plants: Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, wisteria, poinsettia, and poison hemlock
Insects/Bugs: Fire ants, bees, biting flies, mosquitoes, wasps, ticks, spiders, fleas, lice, caterpillars, and chiggers
Other: Rodents, wild or stray animals, and snakes
Employees should receive appropriate training before they perform outdoor work. The training should include any necessary equipment-specific training and plant and insect recognition. The employee should be provided pictures of the various types of poisonous plants that may be located on the property. Do not assume that all employees know what common poisonous plants look like. Employees should also be trained to identify various types of insects and bugs and be provided appropriate first aid training or instructions about where to go for first aid for bites and stings.
Best Practices/Safety Tips
When Bites, Stings or Exposures Occur
Protecting employees with outdoor responsibilities from insects and poisonous plants should be just as important as protecting them from indoor workplace hazards. Knowledge is power and empowering employees with the appropriate information to identify and protect themselves from hazards encountered outdoors is just one tool an agency can utilize to keep employees safe.
1Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (n.d.). Allergy Facts and Figures. Retrieved April 14, 2008 from http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9⊂=30#_ftnref9.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (n.d.). Allergy Facts and Figures. Retrieved April 14, 2008 from http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9⊂=30#_ftnref9.
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (n.d). Insects. Retrieved February 28, 2008 from http://www.chp.edu/besafe/adults/02insect_safety.php?print=true
Cornell University. (n.d.). Poisonous Plants Informational Database. Retrieved from http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/index.html.
Coastal Training Technologies Corporation. (1999). Groundskeeping Safety: Dealing with Bugs & Critters.
Health Illustrated Encyclopedia-Animated Dissection of Anatomy for Medicine. (n.d). Bug Repellent Safety. Retrieved February 28, 2008 from http://www.bcbswny.com/adam/Health%20Illustrated%20Encyclopedia/1/001969.htm.
Johanyak, Debra. (2002). Insect safety: pest control to prevent injury. Essortment. Retrieved February 28, 2008 from http://www.essortment.com/lifestyle/insectsafetype_sgou.htm
Nelson, Lewis S., Shih, Richard D., Balick, Michael J. co-published with the New York Botanical Garden. (2006). Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). OSHA Quick Card: Rodents, Snakes, and Insects. Retrieved March 27, 2008 from http://www.osha.gov/Publications/rodents_snakes_insects.html.
Relf, Diane. (August 1996). Virginia Cooperative Extension. Learning from Poisonous Plants. Retrieved March 18, 2008 from http://www.ext.vt.edu/departments/envirohort/articles/misc/poisnpln.html
Wood, Barbara. (2002). Teaching children about dangerous bugs. Essortment. Retrieved March 18, 2008 from http://www.essortment.com/family/teachingchildre_soso.htm