It’s no secret that working outdoors during the winter months can be dangerous and possibly lead to harmful injuries, but what matters most is that you are aware of the precautions you should be taking to help better protect yourself against the cold and avoid dangerous falls due to ice.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 there were 20,460 ice, sleet, and snow-related injuries, so whether you are working outdoors for your job, like those who work in construction or transportation do, or you are just outside shoveling your driveway, it is smart to keep these tips in mind.
1. Preparation is key
While preparing to work in the cold make sure to drink plenty of water, eat filling meals and get a good night’s sleep. Without realizing it, the body can become very dehydrated much faster in the cold. Dehydration can lead to dizziness and fatigue which is not ideal while outside. Eating full meals helps to energize your body and keep you warm throughout the day.
2. Know the cold stress symptoms
There are three main types of cold stress that you should be aware of while working in the cold: trench foot, hypothermia and frostbite. All three can lead to serious injury if symptoms are left unnoticed.
Symptoms of trench foot include reddening skin (of the feet), swelling, leg cramps, blisters and pain or tingling.
Frostbite can also be recognized by reddening of the skin but furthermore, if the skin develops gray/white patches, tingling, loss of feeling, or the skin feels hard/firm. The toes, ear lobes, fingers and nose are the most common areas where frostbite can develop.
Hypothermia has many symptoms, but one of the most important, although mild, is uncontrollable shivering. Other symptoms include confusion, slurred speech, loss of coordination and slow breathing.
Follow these steps if you are experiencing any symptoms of the three types of cold stress.
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3. Layer up the smart way
It may seem common sense to wear multiple layers when preparing to be outside but wearing the proper layers may not be. When dressing for the cold follow this layering order:
1st layer – This layer is closest to your skin and should be made of a sweat wicking material to help keep you dry.
2nd layer – This layer should have insulating properties (made of wool or fleece) to trap in warmth.
3rd layer – This layer should be made of a nylon-like material that will block the wind and reduce windchill on your body.
Note: pack extra layers, so if your layers get wet you can change into a dry set and reduce your chances of cold stress.
4. Take breaks often
In order to raise body temperature, taking short breaks frequently is crucial if you are working in the cold.
Taking short breaks allows you to check your body for cold stress symptoms, eat filling food, drink warm beverages and change any wet layers.
Business owners, for more information on helping your employees work safely in cold weather conditions, contact your independent insurance agent today.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. If the insurance policy coverage descriptions in this article conflict with the language in the policy, the language in the policy applies..
1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics