Working in the cold winter weather can be like working in the extreme heat:
- You must be prepared for it.
- You must be equipped for it.
- You must get acclimated to it.
Employees who work in the cold weather during the winter months can be at risk of cold stress and injuries. It’s important to recognize cold weather hazards and potential for injury.
CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING WHEN WORKING OUTSIDE DURING THE WINTER MONTHS:
- Workers taking certain medications, who are in poor physical condition or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease may be at increased risk during cold weather exposure.
- Dress in layers that can be added and removed as you get warmer or colder. Sweating from too many layers can cause clothing to become wet. Overdressing can also restrict your movement and increase the potential of an accident.
- Wear synthetic or cotton clothing next to the skin to wick away sweat.
- Hands and head should always be covered to minimize heat loss.
- Take frequent breaks in a warm, dry area to limit the effects of exposure to cold temperatures.
MEDICAL CONDITIONS RESULTING FROM PROLONGED EXPOSURE TO COLD TEMPERATURES:
- Trench foot is caused from prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. Wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet. To prevent heat loss, the body constricts blood vessels to shut down circulation in the feet. Skin tissue begins to die due to lack of oxygen and nutrients.
- Hypothermia is a severe condition when the body is unable to produce enough heat to counter the heat that it is losing. If your body loses heat more quickly than it can make it, your core temperature will fall. As it falls, the body shifts blood away from the skin to reduce the amount of heat that escapes.
- Frostbite is characterized by reddened skin with gray and white patches, skin and limb numbness, firm skin and limbs and, in severe cases, blisters.
If employees show signs of cold-related stress or injuries, it’s important to get them warm and dry immediately.