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Our blog discussing workplace safety opportunities in Nova Scotia and around the world.

Protect your eyes during solar eclipse

Path of totality in Atlantic Canada. Photo: Google Maps

As the solar eclipse approaches on Monday, April 8, 2024, it's crucial to prioritize safety in the workplace. While the it will be a partial eclipse for our region and still captivating to observe, solar eclipses present several hazards you need to be aware of to stay safe:

  1. Eye damage: The most significant hazard of a solar eclipse is the risk of eye damage from looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection. Staring at the sun during an eclipse, even for a short time, can cause severe and permanent eye damage, including solar retinopathy or even blindness.
  2. Ultraviolet radiation: During a solar eclipse, the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation is still present. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can lead to sunburn, skin damage, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
  3. Traffic accidents: Solar eclipses can cause distractions for drivers as people attempt to view the phenomenon while on the road. Sudden changes in lighting conditions during an eclipse can also catch drivers off guard, increasing the risk of accidents. 
  4. Psychological effects: Some individuals may experience anxiety, fear, or other psychological effects during a solar eclipse, especially if they are not adequately informed about the event or have pre-existing phobias related to celestial phenomena.
  5. Fire hazards: Viewing a solar eclipse through improvised methods, such as using binoculars, telescopes, or camera lenses without proper solar filters, can pose a fire hazard. The concentrated sunlight passing through these devices can cause them to overheat and ignite nearby materials.
  6. Electrical hazards: Solar power systems may experience fluctuations in energy production during a solar eclipse, potentially leading to unexpected power surges or disruptions in electrical grids. 

To protect employees from the hazards of a solar eclipse, employers can implement the following controls:

  1. Provide certified solar viewing glasses: Supply certified solar viewing glasses to all employees who may be working or outdoors during the eclipse. Ensure these glasses meet the appropriate safety standards for viewing solar events.
  2. Schedule indoor work or breaks: Whenever possible, schedule indoor work activities or breaks during the peak of the eclipse to minimize employees' exposure to direct sunlight. Provide shaded areas outdoors for employees to take breaks safely if needed.
  3. Educate employees: Conduct training sessions or safety briefings before the eclipse to educate employees about the risks associated with looking directly at the sun and the importance of using proper eye protection. Emphasize the potential for permanent eye damage and encourage compliance with safety protocols.
  4. Enforce eye protection policies: Clearly communicate and enforce policies requiring the use of certified solar viewing glasses whenever employees are outdoors and may be exposed to the eclipse. Supervisors should monitor compliance to ensure all employees are adequately protected.
  5. Offer remote work options: Consider allowing employees to work remotely during the eclipse to reduce the need for outdoor activities and minimize the risk of eye damage. Remote work can also help maintain productivity while ensuring employees' safety.
  6. Provide safe viewing options: Set up designated viewing areas with proper solar viewing equipment, such as telescopes with solar filters or pinhole projectors, for employees who wish to observe the eclipse safely. Ensure these viewing options are set up and monitored by trained personnel to prevent misuse or accidents.
  7. Implement traffic safety measures: If employees need to travel during the eclipse, remind them not to look at the sun while driving and to pull over to a safe location if they want to view the eclipse. Encourage employees to plan their travel routes in advance and be mindful of increased traffic and potential distractions.
  8. Monitor weather conditions: Keep employees informed about weather conditions leading up to and during the eclipse, as cloud cover or inclement weather may affect visibility and viewing opportunities. Adjust safety plans accordingly based on weather updates.

By implementing these controls and measures, employers can help ensure the safety and well-being of their employees during a solar eclipse while still allowing them to experience this rare celestial event responsibly.

Remember, protecting your eyes during a solar eclipse is vital to prevent permanent damage. Let's prioritize safety and enjoy this natural phenomenon responsibly. Stay safe, everyone!

Thank you to WorkSafeNB for allowing us to share this information with Nova Scotians.


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