“How to Beat the Cold While Working Outdoors in Minnesota”
Staying warm and safe while on the job can become a challenge at times. This is especially true when a great deal of the public works job tasks are done outdoors. When temperatures drop the risk of a cold-related illness increases.
To prevent cold weather exposures, you should consider the Top 10 Cold Weather Precautions:
1. Have sufficient clothing, including face/head protection, gloves and footwear. Loose multi-layered clothing provides the best protection, because air trapped between layers of clothing provides an additional thermal insulation.
2. Drink plenty of fluids, preferably warm sweet beverages. Cold weather suppresses thirst, and dehydration can occur without proper fluid intake.
3. Increase caloric intake. Working in heavy protective clothing expends more heat, so 10-15% more calories are required.
4. Take periodic breaks as wind velocity increases or the temperature drops.
5. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and medications that inhibit the body’s response to cold or impair judgment.
6. Avoid the cold if you are becoming exhausted or immobilized, conditions that can accelerate the effects of cold weather.
7. Shield work areas from drafty or windy conditions. Seek a heated shelter if you have prolonged exposure to a wind chill of 20 degrees or less.
8. Work during the warmest hours of the day and minimize activities that decrease circulation.
9. Learn the symptoms of cold-related stresses: heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, severe fatigue, drowsiness and euphoria.
10. Work in pairs so partners can monitor one another and obtain help quickly in an emergency.
The best protection against cold-related health risks is to be aware and prepared. Are your employees trained in this area? If not, we hope that you consider doing so.
Most often, cold-related illnesses are preventable conditions, but if left untreated, could have significant consequences, including death. Major disorders related to cold exposure include:
Hypothermia: This occurs when the body temperature drops due to excessive loss of body heat. It can be fatal unless the person is moved to a warm shelter and receives timely medical attention. Many times, a person who is suffering from hypothermia is unable to recognize their own signs and symptoms of hypothermia, and their treatment and survival is dependent on a co-worker’s ability to help them. Using a “buddy system” is a great way to help detect signs of cold injury in co-workers.
Frostbite: This condition occurs when body parts are frozen due to exposure to severe cold or by contact with extremely cold objects (such as metal). It most often afftcts the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes due to their poor blood supply. Frostbite can cause permanent damage, and the most severe cases can result in amputation.
By Jackie Torgerson