A new government report from the U.S. Labor Department – entitled “Fatal injuries and nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving insects, arachnids, and mites” – reveals that bees were responsible for more workplace deaths (52) than spiders, wasps, and ants combined. Although not typically associated with workplace injuries and deaths, occupational injuries from insects, arachnids, and mites were responsible for 83 worker deaths from 2003 to 2010. The majority of these workplace deaths (63%) were due to bees.
Insect-related deaths were most commonly associated with farming, construction, and landscaping. These three types of job categories accounted for two thirds of the deaths. Almost all the deaths were caused by the bugs’ venomous bites and stings. Fatal occupational injuries involving insects are often associated with an allergic reaction and anaphylactic shock.
Federal agencies dedicated to ensuring employees’ health and safety of in the workplace – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – have each recognized insects as a serious workplace hazard. According to NIOSH, thousands of people in the U.S. are stung by insects each year and as many as 100 people die as a result of allergic reactions.
In 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), Georgia ranked third, behind Texas and California, with 610 cases of reported nonfatal insect-related worker injuries. The pests appeared to particularly target public-sector employees – 35% of all injuries reported were state and local government workers. Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, transportation, and construction occupations had consistently high counts of nonfatal insect-related cases. Employees in these fields are likely to deal with the natural habitat of insects.
After adjusting for population, Georgia may be the second most dangerous place for nonfatal insect-related worker injuries (behind New Mexico). In 2010, Georgia had 6.3 insect injuries of workers per 100,000 people living in the state.
Outdoor workers are at risk of being stung by flying insects. Protect yourself by:
- Wearing light-colored clothing. Avoid cologne or perfume, perfumed soaps, shampoos.
- If there is a stinging insect flying around, remain calm and walk away as quickly as possible. Go indoors or to a shaded area. Don’t jump around or wave your arms. Swinging or swatting at an insect may cause it to sting.
- If you can’t leave, stay very still until the insect flies away.
- If an insect is inside your vehicle, stop slowly, and open all the windows.
- If a bee, wasp, or hornet is after your food or drink, put down what you are eating/drinking and calmly walk away.
- Workers with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen) and wear medical ID jewelry stating their allergy.
If a worker is stung by a bee:
- Immediately remove the stinger by scraping the area with a fingernail, credit card, or other clean sharp-edged tool.
- Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers, since squeezing the stinger can inject more venom into the skin.
- Keep the site clean by washing with soap and water.
- Apply ice to reduce the swelling and apply a topical anesthetic to reduce the pain and itch.
- Have someone stay with the worker to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.
- Seek medical attention immediately for allergic reactions.
If you suspect a bee or insect infestation, call Truly Nolen Atlanta for a free inspection.