When working outdoors or in unheated areas this time of year, it is important to be mindful of the dangers of cold stress. This includes Frostbite and Hypothermia which we have previously written a blog about here.
Two things that you can do to protect yourself from the cold are wear appropriate clothing and be mindful of how your body is reacting to the cold. When it’s cold out, wear plenty of layers and limit the amount of skin you have that is exposed to the cold and wind by wearing gloves, knit hats, etc. When it’s sub-zero out, you should ideally have no skin exposed and should be limiting the amount of time you are spending outdoors. The next thing you can do is be mindful of how your body is reacting to the cold. When it is cold and your body temperature starts to drop, your body will start to focus its blood flow on your core as a way of protecting your vital organs. This means that blood flow to your extremities such as arms and legs will be decreased. An early warning sign of this decreased circulation will be numbness in your fingers and toes, so if you start to feel this numbness despite wearing gloves, heavy socks and insulated boots, you need to get out of the cold immediately.
The Minnesota Department of Labor has some additional information that can be found here:
Look on the bottom of that article for additional links and resources from federal OSHA and NIOSH that can also help you be safe in the cold.
During the winter months, especially January when it is not uncommon for us to go a full week with temperatures only in the negative digits, you should be very mindful of the risks of frozen water and sewer lines. This is a topic that we have covered extensively in other blogs, for easy access, we compiled links to all of them into a single post last year that you can find here.
The risk of water line freeze-ups is one of the reasons why it is important to make sure the water is shut off in any vacant buildings unless of course, the city wishes to keep any sprinkler systems in those buildings active. If the city does decide to keep the sprinkler or water system in a vacant building active the heat should remain on as well, and the building should be inspected frequently during cold snaps to ensure not pipes have frozen and burst.
Did you know that the Minnesota Department of Transportation has a website that allows you to track road conditions? 511mn.org allows you to track road conditions of all roads maintained by the state DOT. You can see how the roads rate after snow storms between “normal”, “partially covered”, “completely covered” and “travel not advised”. The website also allows you to track traffic speeds, see where any accidents have occurred, and look at photos taken by state traffic cameras. Aside from the website, there is also an app that you can download to your phone.
As Public Works employees you are usually the ones clearing the roads of snow for the rest of us, so this may not be as useful to you, but informing your citizens about this useful tool could help prepare them for the snowy roads and prevent accidents. As someone who has to travel a lot for work, I know the app has been extremely helpful to me on more than one occasion.