Safe & Warm: Tips for Working in Winter Weather

worker is cleaning the platform of a train station from snow

As we all know living and working through a New England winter can be very challenging. Those that work outside during the winter months endure all types of weather including cold temperatures and snow. OSHA suggests the following tips for minimizing serious health problems caused by cold weather:

    • Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that lead to potential cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
    • Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses/injuries and what to do to help.
    • Train your workforce about cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
    • Select proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions. Layer clothing to adjust to changing environmental temperatures and for insulation. Carry extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, blankets, and a change of clothes.
    • Take frequent short breaks in warm dry shelters to allow the body to warm up.
    • Perform work during the warmest part of the day.
    • Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
    • Use the buddy system (work in pairs).
    • Drink warm,sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks). Avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
    • Eat warm, high-calorie foods like hot pasta dishes.

Frostbite and hypothermia are just a few of the dangers workers are exposed to during the winter months. Symptoms of frostbite are:

    • Loss of sensations / loss of feeling in your extremities
    • Skin will be flushed before turning grayish yellow or white.
    • Skin will feel cold to the touch.

To treat frostbite, first move the person to a warm area. Remove any clothing that may affect circulation. If there is no danger of the affected area becoming cold again, submerge the affected area (hands, feet, etc.) in warm (105 degrees Fahrenheit) water for 25 to 40 minutes. Then keep the area warm and dry, and seek medical assistance

Symptoms of hypothermia are:

    • Body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • May exhibit slow speech, memory lapse, uncontrollable shivering, and stumbling.

To treat hypothermia, first move the person to a warm area. Remove cold clothing and dress them in warm clothing. Wrap the entire body in blankets to warm the core first. Offer warm, sweet drinks without caffeine or alcohol. Never rub limbs because the coldest blood is in the limbs, and stimulating the limbs will drive the cold blood to the heart, causing heart failure.

Don’t forget your head. A large percentage of heat loss occurs through the top of your head so wear a warm winter hat.

For more information please refer to the OSHA link provided.

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