Weil’s disease for forestry workers, agricultural contractors, and estate workers
We think less about Weil’s disease infections these days and more about Lyme Disease. The number of infections is relatively low compared to something like Lyme disease. The figures from the Health Protection Agency show less than half a dozen recorded occurrence’s each year in Scotland.
However it is still worth knowing about Weil’s disease, its sign and symptoms and how it is carried. Weil’s disease is caused by the bacteria Leptospira. Hence the term Leptospirosis. Many of us may have had Leptospirosis but the infection become more serious when it goes into its second phase – Weil’s disease. This has more severe symptoms and is debilitating or even fatal in about 10% of cases.
Are you at risk?
Most people know that Leptospirosis can be spread in the urine of rodents and small mammals, but cattle also carry it. Anyone who comes into contact with sewers, waterways and agricultural land is at risk of contracting Leptospirosis. Additionally as outdoor workers are often involved in manual work they pick up small cuts and abrasions to their hands quite often, which is how the bacterium can enter our bodies.
Sign and symptoms of Leptospirosis
- cold or flu like signs
- suffering with headaches
- a fever
- Sensitivity to light
- chills, muscle pain
Many of these signs of Leptospirosis could be easily dismissed as something else however if left untreated there is the potential for Leptospirosis to develop into Weil’s disease. If you are if unsure it is worth getting in touch with your local GP or called NHS 111 for more advice. The NHS website also has advice.
How can employers ensure protection for workers?
Leptospirosis bacteria can enter the body through the eyes, nose and through cuts and grazes in the skin.
Whilst at work, workers ought to avoid touching their face and follow good personal hygiene practice. Good hygiene can sometimes go amiss, especially as water supply can be sparse on site. Employers ought to allocate protective clothing and specialised hand wipes in order for workers to conveniently disinfect their hands and keep protected. Workers can combat the infection using specially formulated hand wipes and solutions.
Employers need to report any cases of Leptospirosis contracted at work to the HSE in accordance with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
Five ways to beat Weil’s disease:
- Education – Understanding the signs and causes of Leptospirosis
- Plaster up cuts and grazes.
- Keep your hands away from your face – Avoid contact with your face, eyes and mouth. Always ensure you wipe and disinfect your hands before eating, drinking, using a phone or smoking.
- Hand wipes – Physically remove dirt and disinfect your hands to kill dangerous bacteria, especially where there is limited access to soap and water
- If you develop flu-like symptoms after working in potentially contaminated areas, visit your doctor and tell them what you have been doing to provide a history
Other general control measures for Weil’s disease
- Wear protective clothing and adequate PPE like gloves
- Follow good basic hygiene including regular hand-washing and avoiding hand to mouth/eye contact
- Take rest breaks, including meals and drinks, away from the work area
- Wash cuts and grazes immediately with soap and running water
- Cover all cuts, abrasions in the skin with waterproof dressings.
+F is a generic term mean ‘+ Forestry operations’. These courses are also relevant to many outdoor workers employed in the agriculture or horticulture sectors, landscaping and grounds maintenance, gillies and stalkers, plus fencing and machinery contractors.
Our First Aid +F courses build on the skills from Emergency First Aid at Work or First Aid at Work first aid training to provide scenario based, practical first aid skills and knowledge. These courses are some of the best in the industry and include dealing with catastrophic bleeding, crushing injury, Lyme disease, hypothermia and Emergency Action Planning. These courses have been developed to comply with Forestry Commission +F as per the “First Aid at Work – Forestry Commission Policy” and fit with FISA best practice.
First Aid Training Co-operative has also developed a digital first aid manual, which can be downloaded to your phone or tablet so it is available to you where ever you are. This is a specialist first aid manual for those working in outdoor remote environments. If you operate in remote locations this means your first aid manual is always in your pocket.