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Safety Tips from I-Safety

Spotlight Tip of the Week

The risk from bees, wasps and other stinging insects can be a year-round threat. Their activity often peaks in late summer, a prime time for getting stung while on the job or off the clock, doing yard work or having fun.

A well-known aggressive stinging insect is the yellowjacket, a yellow and black wasp resembling a bee, but with a narrower body and no fuzz. Because they often build their nests underground it can be easy to accidentally stumble over their homes, causing them to become agitated. These can be more aggressive than bees and may even sting without being provoked. It is usually a good idea to give yellowjackets plenty of space and try not to leave out food such as sweet liquids that might attract them.

Bees are a more docile stinging insect. These creatures can be identified by their substantial yellow and black bodies, which are covered in fine hairs. While foraging for nectar and pollen, bees are rarely aggressive and usually only sting when provoked. If you leave them alone, they will often return the favor. However, this does not mean that they are completely safe to be around. Bees can become aggressive in defense of their colonies, which may be found in enclosed areas such as crevices around buildings or inside walls or trees.

If you get stung, this first thing to do is to move away from the area calmly. Some insects release pheromones after stinging that can attract more stinging insects, creating a vicious feedback loop. If you are highly allergic to insect stings and bites, it may be necessary to go to a hospital for treatment. However, most people will be able to treat a sting from a bee or wasp at home.

First, it is important to determine whether the stinger is left behind. A honeybee stinger is highly barbed and must be removed from the wound before additional treatment steps can be taken. This can be done by scraping a hard, flat object such as a fingernail or credit card across the sting. In contrast, the stingers of bumblebees and wasps are smoother and these insects are capable of repeated stings without leaving the stinger behind. Once a stinger is no longer evident in the wound, the procedure for treating these stings is the same. Wash the area with plenty of soap and water, then put ice on the site of the wound to reduce swelling. An antihistamine can also be taken to reduce swelling further and help alleviate itching that can accompany insect bites and stings.

If you are allergic to insect stings, it is a good idea to let your co-workers know, especially if you work outdoors and if you carry an epi-pen for this type of emergency. This can help them help you if you do get stung.

Culture of Questioning

Questioning certain practices with safety in mind is an essential attitude to keep you and the rest of the Vandal family safe. Questioning challenges the complacency that grows in familiar situations and drives change. Questioning safety practices, or perhaps a lack thereof, is vital to developing a culture of safety at the University of Idaho. The goal is for everyone to return home at the end of every day just as healthy as when they arrived on campus.

Safety issues are often recognized but go unreported because a person doesn't know whom to contact or assumes that someone else is already taking care of it. At U of I, we want everyone to challenge these assumptions, question the situation and report the issues. The Report a Safety Concern form was created just for this purpose. It allows for anonymous reporting if you choose, as well as the option to upload an image of the safety problem when appropriate. It is available for anyone to use, and concerns will be directed to the proper campus unit to correct the problem.

Students and employees are the eyes and ears of the community, and your help is essential. Get involved in the safety training opportunities available to you, ask questions if you have a concern about a procedure, take part in safety inspections and report issues right away - issues cannot be corrected if no one knows about them. Timely questioning and reporting can prevent accidents and near misses. If an accident or near miss does occur, report this as well; investigating the reason will help avoid another injury.

As a supervisor, you have additional influence - lead by example and ensure safety is a core value in your team's activities. You are encouraged to do workplace inspections, ensure your employees are current on their safety training, talk regularly with your employees and discuss accident investigation reports with them and the U of I EHS staff. EHS has many resources available for you and the EHS staff can assist all supervisors in their safety efforts.

Our Vandal culture is how we think and act in all our activities. Avoiding complacency and continuously challenging existing conditions that might pose a safety risk allows us as a community to identify discrepancies and take appropriate actions before an accident or near miss occurs. Put safety first and we can achieve the safest possible working and learning environment for our Vandal family.

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