Module 3:
Occupational Safety & Health in Beekeeping

Beekeeping is one of the high risk activities in agriculture. Beekeepers are exposed to physical difficulties such as environmental conditions, stress, bee venom and smoke. As a result of these factors fatigue, illness, injuries and/or occupational accidents may occur.

Table of Contents

Risks in Beekeeping

  • Bee stings (swelling to eyes or throat particularly; anaphylaxis)
  • Location of apiaries 
  • Manual handling (lifting heavy hive parts/equipment)
  • Fall From Heights .i.e. hive removals
  • Working in unfamiliar places/situations
  • Working in public places. e.g. when taking swarms
  • Travel including transport of live bees
  • Working alone and/or in remote places
  • Storage, use and disposal of chemicals
  • Extracting and processing honey ensuring hygiene
  • Fire (such as when lighting, using or extinguishing a smoker)

Common Beekeeping Hazards

The most common hazards associated with beekeeping include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Allergic reaction to bee venom
  • Burns and fire hazards from use of the smoker
  • Increase poor health conditions such as heart conditions, diabetes (late eating)
  • Heat Stroke 
  • Back injuries from improper lifting techniques

Fall From Heights (FFH)

Falling from heights is one of the most common accidents resulting in death in the apiculture sector. 

Hive removal is normally done at heights e.g. rooftops, treetops and building ceilings.

Prevention is key to safeguard the beekeeper in this activity

  • Use of appropriate ladders
  • Use of fall arrest equipment
  • Use of scaffolding when necessary

7 Rules for Smoker Safety

  1. Always use a good smoker
  2. Light the smoker before you approach the hive
  3. Ensue there is a hot fire in the smoke pot then add fuel (a white and grey smoke should be seen)
  4. Keep puffing don’t leave the smoker unattended
  5. While lighting, during beekeeping activities ensure you handle the smoker with care
  6. Ensure you completely out the fuel after dumping with lots of water 
  7. Do not dump its contents on dry grass or easily flammable materials

More General Beekeeping Safety Guidelines

  • Keep beekeeping activities in the early morning or the evening in    cooler temperatures.
  • Remove wild hives at evenings to allow for the bees to be at home for full occupancy. 
  • Any person with suspected or known allergies to bee venom must notify the head beekeeper.
  • Keep at hand a medical/first aid kit; an EPI pen maybe necessary. 
  • Proper lifting techniques shall be used when lifting boxes.  
  • Medium boxes can weigh around 30-50 pounds when filled with honey.
  • Sanitize tools and equipment to minimize cross- contamination (e.g. fungal or mold exposure)
  • A telephone must be on site at all times during activities. 
  • Be aware that bees are sensitive to dark colours and odors such as perfume, dogs, and diesel. These things may affect their behaviour.
  • Approaching Apiaries- At a safe distance 40-50 feet ensure you are wearing your appropriate PPEs.
  • Smoker safety- A good smoker should be used with caution. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)

Suit

Personnel participating in beekeeping activities should:

At a minimum, wear a beekeeping suit, hat and veil, elbow length gloves that are leather or nitrile, and   closed-toe/closed-heel shoes;

Before entering the beekeeping area, personnel shall wear clean protective clothing/personal protective equipment. The protective clothing should be without holes to prevent bees from entry.

Hat and Veil

The ventilated hat should keep its shape and be firm enough to support the veils that fit over them and provide space that keeps the veil away from the face.

Veils are required when working closely with the bees. A folding wire veil should be fitted to the hat to ensure good separation between the beekeeper’s face and the bees outside the veil.

Dark felt hats and floppy hats should be avoided

Gloves

Gloves need to be strong, but pliable;

Elbow length cloth sleeves attached to the gloves should   be worn when gaining access to the inside of the hive; 

or

A band of elastic should be sewn into the cloth sleeve at the elbow end to make it bee-resistant.

Footwear

Closed-toe and closed- heel shoes should be worn.

Bee Sting First Aid

  1. Reactions to bee stings: normal, mild to moderate, severe
  2. Remove yourself from the vicinity of the hive.
  3. Remove the stinger by scraping the sting as soon as possible. If not, increases the amount of venom injected into the body.
  4. Use an EpiPen, then go to the nearest hospital/clinic. 

All beekeepers must be guided by a safety policy; which is written statement of its guidelines to protect the health and   safety of the master beekeepers, their employees, as well as the surrounding community.

In this policy beekeepers are made aware of the health and safety aspects of their trade in ensuring that health hazards and risks are eliminated or reduced. 

E.g. Heat stroke risk- Work early mornings or evenings. Drink lots of water, take frequent breaks resting in shaded areas.