Workers exposed to extremely cold conditions are at risk of serious health problems, including hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration and muscle injuries. Working in cold weather puts enormous strain on your body. To fight back, try these cold-weather safety tips while working on the job:
- Securely tie down or weigh down supplies so they are safe from gusts of wind.
- Be careful in high wind, and be aware of potentially slippery surfaces.
- Take frequent breaks in warm, dry shelters to allow your body to warm up.
- Sweep water out of passageways inside of buildings under construction to avoid slipping.
- Use the buddy system – always work in pairs.
Frostbite occurs after prolonged exposure to low temperatures or wet working conditions. Frostbite can be dangerous and even life-threatening. That’s why it is important to look for the following symptoms when working in cold temperatures:
- Discoloration of the skin.
- Burning or tingling sensations.
- Partial or complete numbness.
- Intense pain.
To prevent frostbite, wear loose-fitting layers of clothing and always cover your hands, feet, nose and ears. At the first sign of pain or if your skin gets wet, look for a place to warm up. When working outside, be aware as winds increase. Heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, making you feel colder than if there were no wind. When your body temperature drops, your nerve cells and muscles work more slowly, impairing your body function. This is easy to notice when tying a shoelace or fastening a button in cold weather.
Layer clothing to keep warm enough to be safe, but cool enough to avoid perspiring excessively. It should also contain the following:
- Inner layer – a synthetic weave to keep perspiration away from the body.
- Middle layer – wool or synthetic fabric to absorb sweat and retain body heat.
- Outer layer – material designed to break the wind and allow for ventilation, such as GORE-TEX®
- Wear a hat. Almost 40 percent of your body heat escapes from your head. If you wear a hard hat, add a winter liner that covers your neck.
Watch out for the effects of cold temperatures on common body functions, such as:
- Reduced dexterity and hand usage. (Cold tool handles reducing your grip force)
- The skin’s reduced ability to feel pain in cold temperatures.
If you have any questions concerning working in winter conditions and how you can improve your employees safety, please contact the LL Roberts Group PEO Risk Management department (toll free) at 877.878.6463.