Outdoor work in cold temperatures can put your employees at risk. Here’s what you need to know.
Employees that work outside in the winter months are at risk of serious health problems, including hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration and muscle injuries. What’s more, frigid temperatures can also cause additional pain for those who suffer from arthritis and rheumatism.
Common symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries include uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue, confusion, white or greyish skin, skin that feels waxy and numbness. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website contains further details on exposure limits and the impacts that windy conditions can have on outdoor workers.
To reduce the risk of cold-induced injuries for your employees, they should consider the following clothing guidelines:
• Layer clothing to keep warm enough to be safe, but cool enough to avoid perspiring excessively. Layered clothing should contain the following:
o An inner layer of synthetic weave to keep perspiration away from the body
o A middle layer of wool or synthetic fabric to absorb sweat and retain body heat
o An outer layer designed to protect from wind chill and allow for ventilation
• Wear a hat.
• Place heat packets in gloves, vests, boots and hats to add heat to the body.
It’s important to note that many people do not notice they are suffering from cold-related illnesses because their tissue is numb. Therefore, it is wise for employees to check on each other periodically when working outdoors in the cold.
If employees experience any symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries, they should get indoors, alert their supervisor and call for medical attention if symptoms do not subside.