Working outdoors is a lot more hazardous than being inside. The weather can get you, and both the job site and the work itself tend to be more physically dangerous. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to mitigate the danger and stay safe.
Here are 10 critical outdoor safety tips to help you out when you are working outside.
1. Get enough sleep.
Everyone says this, but it really is the foundation not only of working safely but of staying sane. Life, and especially work, become completely miserable when you’re tired.
Lack of sleep will impair your judgment, reduce your awareness, and slow down your response times. It will make you unhappier with your job. It will make you physically unhealthier. So whatever you have to do to get enough sleep, make sure you do it.
2. Pay attention to the weather.
The weather can absolutely wreck you if you’re not careful. Extreme heat and cold can sap your strength and make you ill and unable to work. Rain and snow can give you hypothermia as well as make the work itself much more difficult. Ice and mud can make you slip or trip and require a lot of extra energy to walk on. High wind can turn a job site into a disaster zone. Even the sun can burn you.
So stay informed: Read the weather report before heading to work and plan accordingly. Schedule extra time to get tasks done in difficult weather, or postpone them entirely if conditions won’t be safe. Check-in on the weather report periodically throughout the day.
3. Get the proper work-wear for the job.
The outside world can be pretty rough: cuts, bruises, splinters, insect bites. Work-wear protects you from the hazards both of nature itself and your job site environment.
Many outdoor workers and tradespeople wear jeans and t-shirts, but today there are far better options: modern technical fabrics, like the workwear made by Truewerk. These garments are comprised of synthetic blends that do a better job than denim, canvas, or cotton, all while being more lightweight and comfortable to wear.
Good workwear protects you from scratches and cuts, keeps you dry as you sweat, gives you maximum mobility, and doesn’t weigh too much. These features help you conserve energy—which also helps with safety since accidents are much more likely when you’re tired.
4. Get enough (good) food.
Food keeps your energy levels up. Just like sleep it helps with judgment, concentration, and response times—not to mention mood and general health.
Always make sure you are well-fed before going to work, and that you eat good food throughout the day. Don’t have any giant feasts, but don’t feel guilty about getting seconds.
5. Stay hydrated all day.
When you’re working outside, make sure you drink all throughout the day—every half hour, or even more often as needed. Keep a water bottle or thermos handy.
Plain water is best, but tea, sparkling water, soda, and juice are all options, too. Don’t go overboard on coffee, and avoid energy drinks, because the high caffeine can dehydrate you.
6. Check out your work environment and equipment beforehand.
Before you start work for the day, or anytime you’re about to use a piece of heavy machinery or dangerous equipment, do a quick informal look-over to make sure everything is in order. This commonsense step will catch a lot of hazards before they have a chance to cause problems.
You don’t have to do a major inspection, but those checklists can be a good starting point.
7. Set a sustainable pace and take breaks when you need them.
You can’t run your body at full power all day. You’ll get tired much faster—which leads to the same dangers as not getting enough sleep or food. It’s also hard on your health.
So set a sustainable pace on the job, and take breaks when you need them. Even if it’s just for a minute or two, it can help out your body a lot.
This is a critical safety tip for indoor work too. Learn more in our list of 30 safety tips for any workplace.
Whenever your work could impact the safety or workflow of your coworkers, change the job site itself or affect equipment or materials, or could have ramifications for the final product or the client, you need to communicate this to the relevant people.
Just as communication is at the heart of workplace safety, so too are communications breakdowns at the heart of most workplace accidents.
Another aspect of communication safety is signage. Make sure you know all of the safety signs and symbols at your workplace.
9. Don’t take reckless shortcuts or use the wrong tools.
Sometimes you can find good shortcuts and better ways of doing things. And then there’s just being reckless.
Don’t cut corners you shouldn’t cut. This is a safety time-bomb and can end in bodily mutilation, major injuries, or even death.
10. Admit your mistakes and leave room for personal improvement.
No one is so good at their job that they can never screw up. No one is so experienced and knowledgeable that they have nothing left to learn.
Don’t let your familiarity with the workplace create a sense of pride that blinds you. That kind of pride invites accidents and makes it harder for others to do their jobs.
Always be a little humble. Admit mistakes. Keep trying to learn new things and improve.