Keeping Your Employees Safe in the Cold
With temperatures dropping and winter quickly approaching, some employers have a new concern involving their employees’ safety. Just as working in extreme heat can pose potential hazards; working in extreme cold can cause some serious health risks.
Cold stress occurs when the body temperature drops and is unable to replace the lost heat. There are four factors that can lead to this:
- Cold air temperatures
- High wind
- Dampness of the air
- Contact with cold water or cold surfaces
It is important to recognize that cold stress can occur in above freezing temperatures; even temperatures as high as in the 50’s (F) combined with rain and wind can lead to cold stress.
The most common conditions related to the cold are:
Anyone working in the cold is at risk for these conditions, though older people and individuals on certain medications may be at a higher risk.
Hypothermia ranges from mild to severe cases. Mild hypothermia can occur when the body temperature drops between 90 and 98 degrees (F). The symptoms of this can include shivering, slurred speech, lack of coordination, and pale, cold skin. Mild hypothermia can rapidly turn into a severe case if let untreated. Severe hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 86 degrees (F). This can lead to severe muscle stiffness, unconsciousness, extremely cold skin, and even death.
Frostbite occurs when exposed skin freezes. Frostbite usually occurs at below freezing temperatures, but can happen in above freezing temperatures with a low wind chill factor. This can lead to a cold, stinging, numb feeling in the affected area and in some cases has lead to the amputation of the affected area or limb.
Trench foot affects the feet and occurs when the feet are immersed in water for a long period of time. The affects are similar to frost bit, but are usually less severe.
Tips to stay warm and safe:
- Wear appropriate clothing. Wear several layers while working in the cold.
- Wear a hat.
- Do not remain in wet or damp cloths. Have a change of dry cloths available.
- Wear loose clothing, rather than tight fitting clothing.
- Drink plenty of water. Eat high calorie/ warm food.
- Work during the warmer parts of the day when possible.
- Know and react to the symptoms of the above mentioned cold conditions.
Sources: Safety Daily Advisor, OSHA.com, Princeton.edu.
The Seltzer Group, located in Eastern Pennsylvania, specializes in developing safety, workers compensation, human resources, claims, and risk financing programs. They are a proud member of the Keystone Insurers Group and are nationally recognized for their expertise in workers compensation solutions. The Seltzer Group serves businesses and individuals locally, regionally, and on the national level.