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Heed These Summer Recreation Safety Tips for National Safety Month

In 1996, the National Safety Council (NSC) established June as National Safety Month in the United States. The goal? Increase public awareness of the leading safety and health risks in order to decrease the number of injuries and deaths at homes and workplaces.

Each June, the NSC and other organizations offer information on safety issues such as falls, driver safety, fatigue, drug safety, emergency preparedness, and more.

As June is also the official start of summer, it is a good opportunity to take a moment and consider summer safety. While these tips are not comprehensive for every leisure activity, there are meant to provide practical advice so you can enjoy yourself safely.

Recreational Water Safety
Water offers the most common way to beat the heat, and swimming is one of the most popular ways to do so. From backyard pools to local lakes and beaches, there are many places to swim, play or relax; however, water can pose safety issues for families. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, more than 100 drownings occur every year in the United States due to rip currents in the ocean. In fact, the USA Swimming Foundation reports an average of 19 children drown every year during the Fourth of July holiday.

In addition to taking swimming lessons, learning CPR, and maintaining a close watch on those in or around the water, particularly children, keep these things in mind:

  • Swim in supervised areas. Don't go in the water unless you know how to swim. If you or your children cannot, take swimming lessons beforehand or enter the water only where there is trained supervision.
  • Stay calm in a rip current. Swimmers who get caught in a rip current are urged not to try to fight it. Stay calm and float with it or try to swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current and can swim freely.
  • Keep rescue equipment nearby. Make sure there are life jackets, ring buoys, and other rescue equipment near the body of water. A first aid kit should be available, too.
  • Swim in safe areas. Dive only in areas that are known to be safe, such as the deep end of a supervised pool or lake. Avoid jumping in headfirst.
  • No horseplay. Do not push, shove, dunk, or indulge in horseplay around the swimming pool, because this can lead to falls, accidental injuries or death.
  • Avoid alcohol. Never drink alcohol before going into or being in the water. It can impair reflexes, vision, and judgment.

Along with summer fun, sadly come pesky mosquitoes. These warm-weather pests also carry dangers such as the Zika virus, West Nile virus, and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in this country. It is most commonly spread to people by an infected mosquito, with the majority of people not developing symptoms; however, approximately 1 in 5 adults may develop a fever, body aches, diarrhea, and other symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.

Businesses with employees who work outside should provide education about the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses, supply mosquito repellent or insecticide, and take other steps to reduce the presence of mosquitoes. OSHA and NIOSH offer guidelines for protecting workers from occupational exposure to Zika virus.

According to the American Mosquito Control Association, homeowners and businesses can reduce the number of areas where adult mosquitoes can live by removing weeds and mowing the lawn regularly. To further reduce adult mosquitoes' presence, insecticides may be applied to trees, shrubs, and other vegetation regularly. Other suggestions include:

  • Fill or drain puddles, ditches, and swampy areas. Remove or fill tree holes and stumps.
  • Eliminate seepage. Seepage may accumulate near cisterns, cesspools, and septic tanks.
  • Eliminate standing water around the home. Check for trapped water in tarps used to cover boats, pools, etc.
  • Check home improvement sites. Ensure proper backfilling and grading allows for drainage at construction and areas of home improvement.
  • Use insect repellent. To prevent mosquito bites, use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent with DEET and wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
  • Turn up the AC. Turn on air conditioning to deter mosquitoes, which prefer warm, damp, and dark spaces.

While fireworks are a traditional part of Independence Day celebrations, OSHA and the National Fire Prevention Association generally recommend for them to be handled by professionals. On average, fireworks cause 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and nearly 17,000 other fires, resulting in thousands of injuries each year, NFPA reports.

That being said, some states do sell recreational fireworks to consumers. To help reduce risks and injury, here are a few tips from the NSC to keep in mind should you or someone you know decides to use fireworks:

  • Never use fireworks while using drugs or alcohol.
  • Do not allow young children to handle fireworks. All children should have close adult supervision while using them.
  • Use protective eyewear.
  • Never light fireworks indoors.
  • Only use them away from people, houses, and flammable material.
  • Light only one device at a time, and keep a safe distance after lighting.
  • Do not ignite devices in or under a container.
  • Dispose of malfunctioning fireworks in a bucket of water.
  • Soak unused fireworks in water for a few hours.
  • Keep water or a fire extinguisher nearby while using fireworks.
  • Do not pick up a lit firework.
  • Do not throw or use fireworks near vegetation.

Ultraviolet Rays
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can pose a severe risk to all and should not be taken lightly. It can cause premature aging of the skin, cataracts, and skin cancer, and it can suppress the body’s immune system.

EPA reports the following sobering statistics about melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer:

  • It is one of the most common cancers among those ages 15-29.
  • It accounts for more than 75 percent of skin cancer deaths.
  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
  • One person dies from skin cancer every hour.

Non-melanoma skin cancers also can spread and cause serious health problems. The two types are basal and squamous cell carcinomas. According to EPA, basal may appear as small, fleshy bumps or nodules on the head and neck, but it can occur on other skin areas. Squamous, on the other hand, may appear as nodules or as red, scaly patches that can develop into large masses.

To combat skin cancer and other health issues, these suggestions from OSHA can help everyone, whether they are working or playing in the sun:

  • Wear tightly-woven clothing that blocks out light.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15, as it blocks 93 percent of UV rays. You want to block both UVA and UVB rays to guard against skin cancer. Be sure to follow application directions on the container.
  • Wear a wide-brim hat to protect your neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp.
  • Wear UV-absorbent shades. Sunglasses should block 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Limit your exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as that is when UV rays are most intense.

National Safety Council:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

    This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

    About the Author

    Columbia Southern University Adjunct Professor Ralph Blessing has more than 27 years of occupational safety and health experience encompassing general industry, construction, training, and public speaking. He became certified as an afloat safety manager and received his Safety Management Certificate from the Naval Safety Center during his tour of duty in the U.S. Navy. Blessing holds a master's degree in occupational safety and health.

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