Coming Eclipse poses potential harm to outdoor workers

By Matthias Johnson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thompson Citizen

Employers across Canada are being urged to take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their outdoor workers during the solar eclipse, which is scheduled to occur on April 8th, 2024. While the event is highly anticipated, it poses a significant risk to those who must be outside during the eclipse. Michelle Ann Zoleta, the Health & Safety Advice Manager at Peninsula Canada, suggests that employers should take proactive measures to keep their staff safe.

“As exciting as this event is, it poses a significant risk to outdoor workers or any worker that has to be outside during the time of the solar eclipse. Employers must proactively plan to ensure the necessary precautions are in place to keep staff safe,” stated Zoleta.  

Zoleta, who is the Health and Safety Team Lead at Peninsula, has extensive knowledge of Occupational Health and Safety laws and regulations across Canada. She helps clients navigate complex health and safety matters and coaches the health and safety advisory team on how to handle challenging inquiries from clients in the eight provinces where Peninsula operates. 

She further continued about the awareness that was brought to light from their influx of calls addressing this issue became an increasing matter; “We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls from our current clients in Peninsula, from an HR Public Safety perspective asking what they might do if their employees want to participate, asking how they might protect their employees from it. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve wanted to dive into this a little deeper and let people know the risk and how to participate in the safest way possible,”

The eclipse is an exciting event that attracts thousands of Canadians, especially Manitobans who want to experience it firsthand. Employers must, therefore, be mindful of last-minute absences and a surge in time-off requests to watch this historic event.

One of the most critical steps employers should take is to educate their staff about the importance of protecting their eyes. Looking directly at the sun without proper protection can cause significant eye damage or even blindness. Zoleta warns that “Not just Goggles, but sunglasses with UV protection so that your eyes don’t get damaged.” Employers should provide protective eyewear for outdoor workers and ensure that they understand the importance of using it.

Zoleta further stated that, “As the weather gets better, we want to think about the individuals who will be working outside during this occurrence. So the increase in people looking up in the sky need to be aware of what they should be doing to protect their eyesight,” she also expressed that certain areas prove as a greater risk then others, such as locations with water.  

“The areas that have the highest focus and main concerns include areas that have large bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. Because if you think about it, that reflecting off the water, most people are going to be looking in those areas because one, maybe there’s high elevation and two it would honestly look pretty. But these are areas that hold the greatest concern,”

Employers should consider adjusting work timings around the eclipse to avoid peak times. They should also provide shaded rest areas to shield workers from direct exposure to the sun. By implementing these precautions, outdoor workers will be safe, and it will also limit any interruptions to their duty.

Accidents can happen, which is why it is essential to have an emergency response plan in place. Employers should make sure that first aid supplies are readily available, and the staff is trained in basic first aid procedures.

Zoleta has been with Peninsula since 2018, and her main responsibility is to ensure that Peninsula complies with internal health and safety regulations. She works closely with other internal departments to ensure Peninsula’s health and safety services meet industry best practices and comply with legislation. Zoleta offers her clients expert consultation on all aspects of health and safety management, providing timely solutions to their concerns.

“Obviously a Solar Eclipse only happens so many times a year, and one of the reasons why Peninsula highlighted it is because now that the weather is also getting better, we want to spread awareness where even though this is an amazing event happening, businesses should be aware of what they should do with their workers as well as educate them from a health and safety perspective,” Zoleta concluded.

The eclipse will be visible from the eastern parts of Canada, and heavily in the North as it will be the first total solar eclipse visible from North America since August 2017. The eclipse will be visible for about three minutes in some areas, with the duration decreasing as you move away from the path of totality.

Employers across Canada must take proactive measures to ensure the safety of their outdoor workers during the solar eclipse. By providing protective eyewear, shaded rest areas, and adjusting work timings, employers can ensure that their staff is safe during this highly anticipated event. With the help of experts like Michelle Ann Zoleta, employers can navigate the complex health and safety matters surrounding the solar eclipse and provide their staff with the necessary professional advice and assistance to comply with their province’s health and safety laws.