This month our Health and Safety focus is on dangerous plants and we’re highlighting some of the unknown dangers that come with these plants. There are a number that are considered ‘invasive’ and there are a number that are prohibited from release into the wild. Anyone found convicted of an offence under Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), may face a fine of £5,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment or 2 years and/or an unlimited fine on indictment. So it’s important we’re aware of these dangers and how they could potentially endanger our engineering sites.
Four of the plants that can be easily spread are Giant Hogweed, Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Giant Rhubarb.
The plant produces phytotoxic sap. The sap contains photosensitizing furanocoumarins, which in contact with human skin and combined with UV radiation cause skin burnings.
The intensity of the reaction depends on individual sensitivity.
The photo-dermatitis or photosensitivity, (where the skin becomes very sensitive to sunlight) may result in blistering, pigmentation and long-lasting scars.
This plant is an invasive and resilient weed, it’s roots and rhizomes can grow to a depth of 2m, if left untreated it has the potential to cause damage to drains, paving, paths, driveways and poorly constructed boundary walls. These plants need to be identified at sites, so we can work on our projects risk free.
Himalayan Balsam is a relative of the busy Lizzie, but is a major weed problem, and can be found on riverbanks and waste land as well as some gardens. It can grow really quickly and disturb ecological balances in our communities.
Giant Rhubarb can also grow quickly and become a problem as it engineers its ecosystems and alters the habitat where it grows. Definitely problematic for potential engineering sites!
These plants are just some of the ones that we need to watch out for. As a company, we have to remain vigilant for threats that may not seem overly apparent in the realm of engineering and consultancy.