ASHEVILLE -An orange vest won't do much to protect you from the venomous timber rattler. Snakes don't see colors.
"This time of year brings so many more potential hazards, and we want to make sure our workers are prepared for all of them," says Candie Auvil with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Auvil is the safety engineer for Division 14, covering the western-most region of the state. She's familiar with some of the snake hangouts. "Chunky Gal in Clay County is rural and rocky, and the conditions make it a snake haven. Also, along I-40 through the Pigeon River Gorge," she says. "They blend in well with their surroundings, and can be extremely difficult to spot."
Beyond potentially deadly snakes, NCDOT workers have been reviewing skills to handle heat, cope with prolonged sun exposure, and recognize poisonous plants. "With all of summer's possible hazards, this training can prevent a serious injury or fatality," says Auvil.
Workers become expert scouts, in a sense. They review vegetation field guides to avoid itchy infections, and first aid procedures for heat stroke and exhaustion. "This time of year, preparing for the job goes well beyond safely operating equipment and taking the necessary measures to stay safe working in traffic," Auvil adds.
Like the scouts, she encourages the buddy system, particularly when it comes to watching for signs of heat-related illnesses. "Our folks work with each other every day," Auvil says, "and they look out for each other. They'll know if someone's having troubles, and are trained to get them help."
Whether spending time working or playing in the mountains this summer, Auvil shares this advice from NCDOT safety training:
Hydration: Before starting work outside, it's recommended to drink two cups of water, then two to four additional cups each hour.Sun protection: Wear hats or bandanas, and use sunscreen. Keep in mind some sunscreens lose their effectiveness when applied with insect repellents. Skin cancer detection: Know your skin. Do a monthly self-exam to note any moles, blemishes, or birthmarks.Snake bites: Remove jewelry and tight fitting clothing around the bite before swelling starts.Stinging insects: Avoid strong-smelling aftershaves, colognes, and perfumes that could attract insects.Heat exhaustion prevention: Wear light-colored clothing to stay cooler. Schedule the heaviest, most exhausting tasks earlier in the day.Poisonous plants: Thoroughly wash clothes, including shoes, that may have come in contact. Leftover oils could cause a reaction days later.