With summer over, cold wet weather is not far away. Workplace safety is important for those workers who are outdoors working. Unfavorable weather conditions can cause health problems that are severe such as frostbite and hypothermia. In addition to cold and wet weather, wind is also a danger. With a blowing or gusty wind, cold wet weather is dangerous even if the temperature is above freezing.
Fortunately, by staying aware of your surroundings and using simple precautions you can avoid dangerous illnesses such as hypothermia and frostbite. A buddy system is a good idea for outdoor workers too. Know the signs of cold stress to look for it in yourself and your co-workers when your team works outside in cold climates.
Following are some cold weather safety tips for workers.
Frostbite is a medical term used when your skin and body tissue start to freeze because of exposure to cold weather. Your body’s most vulnerable parts are extremities including the nose and ears, fingers and toes.
Frostbite can come on quickly. Symptoms can include,
*A tingling sensation much like pins and needles.
*Pale or waxy skin that hardens
*Protective thermal clothing such as gloves, socks and a ski mask are helpful in deterring frostbite.
Nevertheless, prolonged exposure may cause frostbite even when extremities have some protection.
What to do if you or a coworker has frostbite
*Remove tight clothing and jewelry
*Place affected body parts in warm water bath. Do not use hot water as body tissue needs slow warming to avoid damage
*When normal feeling returns, pat dry the area and cover it to keep it warm
*Go for medical attention
*Notify a supervisor
Hypothermia is a dangerous illness that happens when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees.
Victims of hypothermia have uncontrollable shaking. Other symptoms include:
*Bluish skin (especially fingers and lips)
Helping hypothermia victims
Hypothermia is a dangerous illness. Take the following steps when a worker displays hypothermia symptoms:
*Call 911 at once
*Move the victim to a warm dry place
*Take off wet clothing and put warm dry clothing on. Wrap the victim in a blanket.
*The victim should drink anything high in sugar such as a sports drink. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks.
*Make every attempt to keep the victim awake if possible
*Ask the person to move their extremities to make muscle heat
Working in cold, wet weather is physically tiring. In order to cope follow these tips.
*Take short breaks in a dry place often to warm up
*Use layered clothing that you can add or take off as conditions dictate
*Work boots need proper insulation and waterproofing
*Wear the right cold weather clothing
*Use a buddy system and try to work in groups – be aware of the fitness of your co-workers
*Keep clothing changes available so you can change out of clothing that will get wet
All employees need training on the symptoms and emergency treatment for frostbite and hypothermia.