With widespread heavy falls across the state this summer, rural workers face challenges their city counterparts rarely experience. A few simple precautions can pay big dividends in the event of flooding.
Localised flooding brings unique risks for workers including displaced snakes and other animals, and water-borne diseases. A simple but effective rule is to remember to check in and under objects before moving them. Maintain good hygiene because exposure to flooded environments increases the chance of skin infections, diarrhoea and diseases such as leptospirosis and melioidosis.
Melioidosis is a risk for workers who have contact with mud and surface water, especially in more tropical parts of Queensland which were inundated last month. Infection can occur when contaminated mud and water get into a wound or sore, droplets become airborne and inhaled, or ingested. Although uncommon in healthy adults, melioidosis can cause serious illness in people with underlying health issues.
Workers who have contact with wet environments contaminated with animal urine are at risk of contracting leptospirosis. Infection can occur when contaminated water comes into contact with broken skin, eyes, mouth or nose, or following immersion in contaminated water. It causes an influenza-like illness sometimes requiring hospitalisation.
Take these basic precautions to reduce the risk of infection from flooded environments:
- Wear a fit-tested particulate respirator (P2 filtration or higher) if exposed to aerosols of muddy water and wet soil.
- 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 with running water and soap after contact with soil and muddy water.
- Clean wounds and abrasions.
Plant and machinery risks change in a flood too. Quad bikes are extremely useful for 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.