White Card Update: Protecting Workers from Pests

Recently Workplace Health and Safety Queensland called upon workplaces in the state to address the problem of mosquitoes breeding to protect workers from mosquito bites.

The work safety authority has reminded employers that mosquitoes lay eggs in containers that hold water in building sites and work yards which make these workplaces a prime breeding ground for these pests. It is for this reason that workers, particularly construction workers are at risk of getting mosquito-borne diseases including dengue fever, Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus.

Employers must remember to check workplaces at least once every week for any items that can hold water and remove these if possible. The safety authority has reminded employers that preventing mosquito-borne diseases is easy by simply not allowing water to fill up in containers, tarpaulins, buckets, fallen palm fronds and pot plant bases.

Employers have also been reminded to store any containers that may hold water undercover or in a dry place. On a construction site this may include work equipment, surplus materials or trailers and bins which should be kept covered.

Good housekeeping also plays an important role and any rubbish lying around the site should by thrown into the garbage including empty containers, debris, waste materials, tyres etc.

There are certain construction practices which promote mosquito breeding more than others including sand extraction activities, storm water drainage construction, construction of water retention in tidal areas, land fill operations, sewerage pond construction etc.

Any construction practice that increases the flow of water, silt or nutrient interrupts or prolongs the drainage through these areas, has the potential to promote mosquito breeding.

Diseases Associated with Mosquito Bites

There are numerous diseases linked to mosquito bites but undoubtedly the most well-known and feared globally is Malaria. Arboviral Encephalitides, Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever and Yellow Fever are some of the others, less commonly known.

In The NT at least 30 people a year are infected with malaria, most of these people in rural areas but the spread of malaria to the adjacent lying urban areas is also on the rise which is why we need to be proactive in avoiding the promotion of mosquito breeding. Coastal and swampy parts of the country are also at risk.

Breaking down Malaria

Malaria is caused when a parasite infects the red blood cell. Malaria spreads from person to person by the bite of a female mosquito. The mosquito bites an infected person and transfers the protozoa into the blood of a healthy person.

There are actually 4 types of Malaria but the signs of infection are more or less the same, including

  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Enlargement of the spleen
  • Back pain
  • Joint aches
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Severe anaemia
  • Headache

Although malaria can be spread in other ways, the most common is from a female Anopheles mosquito. Mosquito spreads the parasite during a meal through its’ saliva. The Sporozoites thereafter travel to through the blood towards the liver where they mature and enter the bloodstream as Merozite and invade the red blood cells. From here they continue to multiply.

The other diseases caused by Mosquitoes include Arboviral Encephalitides, Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever and Yellow Fever. All can be serious and by preventing the breeding of mosquitoes on site, you can avoid infecting workers.

Avoiding Malaria and other Mosquito Linked Diseases

Those living in malaria prone regions such as the NT, coastal regions and areas near bodies of water and mangroves should make sure they follow certain precautions. If you live or work in an area which is prone to mosquitoes in addition to implementing procedures to reduce the breeding of mosquitoes as mentioned above (checking the site once a week for areas where mosquitoes can breed), implementing certain personal protective equipment can also help.

Workers in particularly prone areas should use mosquito repellent cream to keep mosquitoes away from them. They should also wear PPE that protects them like long sleeves and long pants that cover their legs, particularly if they work at night.

Ensure that good housekeeping forms part of the sites safety control plan. Clear shrubs and other weeds around the work site that help mosquitoes to breed and hide. Containers that hold paint, chemicals and other construction materials should be discarded after use and left to collect water and provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Never allow stagnant water around the site to percolate as it helps breed mosquitoes.

Keep in mind, malaria is one of the major causes of millions of deaths around the world and when left untreated, it could lead to many complications that include dengue, paralysis, coma and death.

Most importantly get rid of mosquitoes by keeping your work environment clean.