As the summer storm season reaches its peak, rural workers may still face challenges if heavy rain occurs, so a few simple precautions are best followed in the event of flooding. Localised flooding can bring unique risks for rural workers - not least from snakes and other animals displaced by flood water.
A simple but effective rule is to remember to check in and under objects before moving them. Also maintain good hygiene because exposure to flooded environments increases the chance of skin infections, diarrhoea and diseases such as leptospirosis and melioidosis.
Quad bikes are extremely useful for rural clean up tasks, but make sure you wear a helmet and be aware that mud and water may be concealing obstacles. Check your route is clear before you attempt to cross any flooded or muddy terrain. Children under 16 are not allowed to ride adult quad bikes and never carry more passengers than the vehicle is designed for.
When operating any machinery in the wet, consider the changed ground conditions which could increase the risk of roll over, bogging or loss of stability. Only let workers with the appropriate skills operate plant and equipment such as chainsaws, tractors or post drivers.
Melioidosis is a risk for workers who have contact with mud and surface water, especially in more tropical parts of Queensland. Infection occurs when contaminated mud and water come into contact with a person's non-intact skin, and although uncommon in healthy adults, melioidosis can cause serious illness in people with underlying diseases and conditions such as diabetes, chronic kidney and lung disease and impaired immunity.
Leptospirosis is a risk for workers who have contact with wet environments contaminated with animal urine, including rat urine. Infection occurs when contaminated water comes into contact with a person's non-intact skin or their eyes, mouth and nose and can also occur following immersion in contaminated water, causing a severe influenza-like illness sometimes requiring hospitalisation.
There are a few basic precautions to take to reduce the risk of infection from contact with flooded environments:
- cover cuts, abrasions and sores with a water-resistant dressing
- wear water-resistant or enclosed footwear in wet or muddy areas
- wear protective gloves if handling soil, mud or surface water
- wash thoroughly after contact with soil and muddy water
- clean wounds and abrasions.
For more information on flooding and infectious diseases visit worksafe.qld.gov.au.