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Watershed Academy~Pathways for Water and Climate Resilience

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Lesson 4 of 23
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August 31, 2023

Staying Safe Throughout Your Internship

Safety is the number one priority when working outdoors or with tools. There are many dangers and hazards that can cause severe accidents in our work. This lesson focuses on preventing accidents.

Respecting yourself and your co-workers: Showing respect to others is the best way to receive respect from others. You may not always receive respect; if that is the case you should speak up to your crew leader or supervisor about the situation, as respect is an important element of safety.

Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the number 1 way to protect yourself: PPE includes items such as sturdy boots, gloves, hard hats, and any other items required by your supervisors. In fact, on many job sites it is illegal to not wear forms of eye protection, head gear or proper shoes. When it comes to protecting yourself from hazards, wearing PPE is the best single thing you can do. Listen to your supervisors when they ask you to wear your gear for a specific project, it could literally save your life.

Staying aware of your surroundings: Always be aware of your surroundings. There can be dangerous vegetation (such as dead trees or branches overhead), dangerous wildlife, and rushing rivers. Also be aware of humans that are not part of your crew. The surface underfoot is often uneven when working outside, with hazards such as loose rocks or tripping hazards.  Additionally, the weather in the southwest can change very quickly and can pose a threat to safety as well. Ensure you dress appropriately each day for unpredictable weather (bring layers for unexpected cold, sun protection, rain, etc. and proper footwear).

Using tools: Ensure you receive proper training about a tool before you use it. Please ask if you are unsure! When you are using a tool, whether it be a chainsaw or a shovel, LOOK around you to make sure no one is in the way. DO NOT swing your tool around or play with it like a toy. Be aware of sharp edges and points, for yourself and others. Look into buckets or containers before reaching for items. Also be mindful of where you place tools on the ground – is someone likely to step on it? (Just like in a cartoon, a rake or shovel can be stepped on and the handle can hit someone in the face, for example). Keep yourself and others safe with tools at all times.

Being an active participant – engaging and listening: It is really important that you listen carefully when an elder, educator, professional, or your leader is giving instructions. Missing crucial information can become dangerous for you and your coworkers. Do not ever engage in a project by yourself; if you do take something on independently, take one other member with you and make sure you have full permission from your supervisor and that they know where you are going.

Speak up, ask for help: A man once said “It is better to ask and be a fool for five minutes, then to never ask and be a fool for life.” If you didn’t hear the instructions the first time, ask for them to be repeated. If you don’t feel confident in what you need to do then ask your supervisor for specific directions. If you don’t know how to properly use a tool, then ask your supervisor or leader to show you. Doing something without knowing the proper way to do it can lead to serious accidents.

Knowing when it’s time to take a break: Listen to your body. Only you know what you feel like, so no matter how many times a leader or member tells you to rest or drink water you are the only one who can do it. Heat can be very dangerous and you may not feel the effects until it is too late. Heat exhaustion is one of the biggest threats when working outdoors. You may not even feel very hot before heat causes severe sickness for a day or more, and if it becomes heat stroke, you may actually have damage to your brain and body. You also know your own limits, so if something is too heavy or strenuous for you, ask for help! That’s what team members are for. Remember – your health always is a top priority.

Staying focused: Staying on task for a project helps you and your team finish the project safely and effectively (and may leave more time for a fun activity). With focus you stay safer because you are aware of your surroundings. Wandering off or forgetting about your teammates puts everyone in danger.

Alcohol and drug use: Alcohol and drugs impair your ability to function normally and to follow safety guidelines. It is dangerous to be under the influence while working in the field or with tools. Further, it is also illegal to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while working with your internship and will not be tolerated. This includes nicotine, as it is illegal to consume under the age of 21.