With winter coming up on us soon, we want to share important information regarding the dangers of working in the elements, such as extremely cold weather. The combination of low temperatures, wind speed, and wetness can add up to injuries and illness. Our first installment describes how to protect workers from the hazards of weather-related illnesses, and the second installment gives instructions on what should be done in cases of hypothermia and frostbite.
Protection for workers includes:
- Understanding workplace and environmental conditions that can lead to potential cold-induced injuries and illnesses.
- Training the workforce about such illnesses and injuries.
- Allowing frequent short breaks in warm dry shelters to let body warm up.
- Working in pairs (buddy system).
- Wearing layered clothing to adjust to changing temperatures. Wearing proper clothing for cold, windy, and wet conditions, including hats and gloves.
- Performing work during the warmest part of the day, if possible.
- Because energy is needed to keep muscles warm, avoiding exhaustion or fatigue.
- Eating warm, high-calorie foods like hot pasta dishes.
- Drinking sports-type drinks, sugar water, warm sweet beverages. Drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, or hot chocolate) should be avoided, as well as alcohol.
- Knowing the symptoms of cold-induced illnesses/injuries; recognizing what to do to help the worker.
If workers have predisposing health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease, they are at an increased risk. Also, if they take medications that would affect them while working in cold environments, they need to check with their doctor or pharmacists.