If you have to work in cold weather, safety should be your watchword.
Nothing is more important than cold weather safety for workers brave enough to work in uncomfortable conditions.
But freezing temperature isn’t the only thing to worry about. There is also the problem of wind chill: what the temperature actually “feels like” due to cold air blasting against your exposed skin.
Your nose tip, ear lobes, fingers, and toes are the first victims of frostbite. Numbness and dehydration are clear signs too. When you see signs of frostbite or hypothermia, get medical attention quickly.
To prevent cold injury while working:
1, Eat well and drink enough water
In cold weather, the rate of dehydration is faster. When you’re dehydrated, you become tired, dizzy and have headaches. To stay alert, ensure you’re drinking enough water or warm drinks. Water keeps your body functioning by regulating your internal temperature. When you’re dehydrated, your body temperature drops, and this may cause hypothermia. Of course, you won’t feel so thirsty in cold weather, but carrying a water bottle with you can become a helpful reminder to hydrate.
Avoid alcohol; it only gives the body a temporal feeling of warmth. Alcohol actually lowers body temperature and weakens the body’s ability to shiver, which is a natural response to increase body temperature.
Your diet is important too; fuel your body with foods that increase body temperature. Eat high-calorie foods rich in protein, carbohydrates and fats as these nutrients supply energy to stay warm. Such foods take longer to digest; this allows your body to produce more heat caused by food metabolizing.
2. Be well rested
Working in cold weather demands more alertness. Avoid working if you’re tired, sleepy or not well-rested. When you’re not well-rested or getting enough shut-eye, you’ll become a problem not just to yourself but to others as well.
Take regular breaks from the cold
To function properly, your body needs time away from the cold. While working outdoors, plan breaks or warm-periods to prevent shivers and numbness.
3. Keep dry
You really don’t want to get wet in cold weather. Damp clothing effectively drops body temperature quickly. Staying dry in the cold means wearing three-layered clothes with the first layer keeping you dry (a moisture-wicking base layer that dries up a sweat), the second layer (fleece) should insulate, and the outer shell should be water- and windproof.
Once you get wet, remove damp clothing and change to something dry if you can.
Picking the right dressing for the right weather is crucial.
Your headwear, gloves, socks, and shoes should be able to keep out the cold. Your headwear should warm up your head and ears and a balaclava or scarf can warm your neck.
4. Keep a cold-weather safety kit
You just have to be prepared.
On the road?
Keep a cold-weather safety kit in your car.
If you’re on the road, make sure to take a cold-weather safety kit. A cold weather kit should at least consist of a flashlight, matches, chemical hand warmers, candles, emergency blankets ad emergency foil blanket. Extra food and water also help. Medications, dry clothes, a glass scraper and more should be added. Keep these basic winter weather tools in your car at all times.
5. Drive safely
When driving in cold weather, you need to take extra precautions.
Top up your vehicle fluids frequently. And because the road might be icy or packed with snow, paying attention to changing conditions and driving slowing are the smartest things to do. Avoid using cruise control while driving on ice and snow. Slowly accelerate and decelerate while moving.
If your job involves always being on the road, ensure your tires are inflated correctly and have enough tread.
Keep your tank full or at least half full. If possible, conserve fuel by running the heater and engine long enough to remove the chill.
Clear your exhaust pipe to remove clogged ice, snow or mud. When the engine is running, a clogged exhaust pipe may cause the leakage of deadly carbon monoxide gas into the vehicle’s passenger compartment.
6. Clear away ice
To prevent trips falls or slips, de-ice and clear walkways, then prevent ice from building upon them. From outside break spaces to sidewalks to parking areas to stairways, clearing snow and ice is important.
Additionally, avoid carrying heavy loads on slippery grounds.
You can also wear heavy-tread footwear to improve traction while you walk. Anti-slip boots with a strong tread are great for winter.
Keep spreading rock salt or sand on the ice; this gives a rough surface to improve the grip of footwear.
7. Mark unsafe areas with signs
To warn people of hazardous areas, use temporary floor stands, barricades, cones, and signs.
Working along the roadside?
Wear reflective clothes or jackets to make yourself noticeable to drivers.
Increasing awareness in your work area minimizes the risk of cold-induced accidents. For instance, precautions could highlight the presence of black ice on roads or the potential of falling icicles.
8. Working in pairs
When working in cold weather, use the buddy system if you can. This means working in pairs. With a buddy, you can check each other for signs of cold stress.
9. Halt the task if feeling uncomfortable
If you feel extremely uncomfortable, you should take a break. At very low body temperature, the brain is negatively affected, impairing physical and mental processes.
10. Keep checking the weather forecast
Just because it’s clear and sunny now doesn’t matter. Check the hourly weather forecast and stay prepared. Cold weather can also bring storm surges, blizzards, and other problems. Having this information beforehand will save you a lot of problems.
Be mindful of wind chill. The wind makes cold temperatures feel even colder. While working outside, watch out for wind chill. The ambient temperature might feel good, but it’s the wind chill you should worry about.
11. Dealing with frostbite
Signs of frostbite include stinging, tingling and numbness of hands and foot.
The skin becomes waxy, pale or blue. In the case of frostbite, find a warm dry place immediately. Ensure the victim is not walking on frostbitten toes or feet. Keep the affected body part elevated to reduce swelling, then move to a warmer area.
Get rid of damp clothing and never massage the affected area; this may cause more problems. Warm the affected area with body heat or dip in warm water. But never warm the frostbitten area with a radiator or heating pad. Apply a bandage (dry and sterile) to the affected area.
For affected toes and fingers, put a cotton ball between each toe and finger. Then immediately seek medical assistance.
12. Dealing with hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when the body exhausts stored energy needed to generate heat.
The common signs are dizziness, bluish skin, and shivering.
Hypothermia can occur at above freezing temperatures. For instance, it can happen between 30 and 50 °F.
Preventing hypothermia begins with wearing the right layered clothing with layers of loose clothing which gives greater insulation and protection.
Your head, ears, hands, and feet should be protected by waterproof headwear, gloves, and shoes. Getting ahead of frostbite and hypothermia means carrying with an extra change of (dry) clothes and blankets. This would come handy when you get damp or when the temperature drops.
Work breaks are vital. The colder the day, the more the warm breaks should be. If possible, look at the weather forecast and work during the warmest time of the day.
For suspected hypothermia, find a warm place. Remove wet clothing. Take a warm beverage. Once the body temperature rises, wrap on a warm blanket, covering your body as well as your head and neck. And immediately look for medical assistance.
13. Install heat ventilation
Ventilation is essential even in cold weather, especially where you’re working.
When using non-electric heaters, make sure the shelter is well ventilated to allow the escape of carbon monoxide. Alternatively, consider using a heater whose heat generator is located outside the shelter—pumping heated air into the shelter.
Extremely airtight shelters are energy efficient but can cause poor ventilation. Poor ventilation means poor air quality, moisture buildup, which encourages mildew or mold growth.
In cold weather, opening the windows for a few minutes every day removes stale air and replaces it with fresh air.
14. Effective communication
Commutation is an important aspect of every workplace. And it’s even more important when you’re working in the cold.
In fact, effecting a safety plan to prevent or minimize health hazards caused by cold weather is only possible when you trust and understand your co-workers or colleagues.
Be proactive with safety protocols, expectations, and responsibilities in your workplace.
This starts with creating a safety plan and seasonal safety policies. Identify the hazard and work toward problem-solving.
Effective communication may involve teaching workplace conditions that may cause injuries and illnesses. Educating people on the signs and symptoms of cold-induced injuries and illnesses (from frostbite to hypothermia) and how to handle them.
Using proper clothing for windy, wet and cold conditions. Encouraging warm breaks in dry shelters.