The temperature outside rarely determines whether you shut your operation down and send your employees. Therefore, you must find ways to avoid winter weather-related health issues such as cold stress, frostbite or hypothermia.
What is Cold Stress?
Cold stress occurs when internal body temperatures plummet, and the body is unable to warm itself. This condition can cause cold-related illnesses and injuries, as well as permanent tissue damage and death.
Common Types of Cold Stress
The main types of cold stress that can occur in outside jobs include:
Trench foot occurs when a worker exposes a foot injury to prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. Wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet. The colder the temperature, the more likely your injury will suffer from trench foot.
Symptoms: Reddening skin, tingling, pain, swelling, leg cramps, numbness, and blisters.
When the skin and tissue freeze, frostbite occurs. Frostbite can cause permanent damage to the body or lead to amputation. Workers with poor blood circulation or inadequate clothing are more likely to suffer from frostbite.
Symptoms: Reddened skin, gray/white patches in the affected area, tingling, aching, loss of feeling, firm/hard skin surface, or blisters.
Hypothermia occurs when the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F. Exposure to cold temperatures causes the body to lose heat faster than producing it. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up the body’s stored energy.
Symptoms: Uncontrollable shivering, loss of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, low heart rate or breathing, unconsciousness.
How to Prevent Cold Stress
Although OSHA does not have a detailed standard for working in cold environments, you have a duty as an employer to protect your crew from workplace hazards such as cold or freezing work conditions. You need to be aware of these conditions and take action to prevent them from causing cold stress injuries or fatalities.
Here are some ways you can help your managers and employers prevent cold stress:
Comprehensive Ongoing Training
You can train your workers to recognize hazardous environmental and working conditions that lead to cold stress. You can also train your crew to recognize symptoms of cold and what action to take if it occurs. Finally, you can help your employees identify and purchase proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions.
Create Standards and Procedures
You can create clearly outlined standards and procedures for working in cold environments such as:
● Monitor workers physical condition
● Schedule frequent short breaks in warm, dry areas
● Schedule work during the warmest part of the day
● Work in pairs or groups
● Provide warm, sweet beverages
● Provide engineering controls such as radiant heaters
Proper Winter Clothing on the Worksite
The most critical issue you need to address in preventing cold stress is making sure your employees are wearing the appropriate gear that is both functional and warm. Proper clothing includes:
● Winter jacket: A fully quilted, thermally insulated weather jacket such as an Ergodyne Quilted Bomber Winter Jacket
● Balaclava: A comfortable fleece, wind-resistant Balaclava that covers the nose and neck such as the Ergodyne N-Ferno Wind-Proof Hinged Balaclava.
● Shield gear: The shield gear that protects the eyes and surrounding areas of the face like Pyramex Capstone Shield Clear eye protection.
● Insulated gloves: A durable pair of insulated gloves that do not hinder your work. You may want to choose Global Glove insulated gloves.
OSHA-Approved Winter Gear From MC Tool & Safety
MC Tool & Safety offers OSHA-approved durable construction and safety gear for employers, contractors, and workers in all residential and commercial construction fields. We focus on providing protection and education for those who work in hazardous environments.
To find out more about the products and services we provide, as well as safety education opportunities, call us at 888-206-2569, or you can message us at firstname.lastname@example.org.