The days are getting shorter and temperatures are getting lower. Cold weather can affect how workers perform on the job and can even pose health risks when not dealt with properly. Cold stress can manifest itself in many forms, including frostbite, hypothermia and trench foot. Keeping your workers safe should be your top priority. Here are some ways you make sure they aren't harmed by the coming cold weather.
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, those with a risk of cold stress include snow cleanup crews, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and other workers that have to perform jobs outdoors. Risk factors include poor physique, exhaustion, improper clothing, hypertension and diabetes.
When workers go out into the field during a cold period, they are at risk of being exposed to unsuitable conditions. Cold winds and dampness can cause exposed skin to freeze or prevent the body from being able to maintain a proper temperature. It's important that workers dress properly and have a set of guidelines that informs them when it's time to escape from the elements. In fact, having a plan of action in place ahead of time is one of the best ways to prevent injury.
Plan of action
A plan of action should be as fleshed-out and thorough as possible. It should cover everything from how to handle various emergencies, how to report and record incidents and who to call for immediate action. The majority of this information should be in place before a crisis emerges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that workers avoid extremely low temperatures when possible, but if it's unavoidable, they should take every precaution to avoid injury.
- Wear warm clothing. Dressing properly is one of the best ways to stop the cold from getting at your skin. The CDC said that you should wear several layers of loose clothing to increase insulation. If clothes are too tight, they could decrease blood flow and cause bodily extremities to get cold faster. Workers should also be sure to cover their faces and other very sensitive areas. Footwear should be thick and waterproof to avoid trench foot.
- Get warm when you can. When working in severe conditions, workers should have somewhere warm to retreat into during breaks or when the temperature drops suddenly. This could be a building or heated vehicle. If a worker gets wet or has sweat completely through his uniform, he should get dry as soon as possible.
- Have extra equipment. In addition to the usual equipment, workers should carry special winter gear, including blankets, thermoses of hot beverages, extra socks and gloves, chemical hot packs and lights. If workers are going to work in an area where they could get snowed-in, they should take care to pack extra necessities. When conditions are uncertain, it's always better to be over prepared.