- Jan 21, 2020
Unlike some schools, construction typically doesn’t have ‘snow days’ where work is stopped for cold or icy weather. The safety of workers in cold winter temperatures is a major concern that we must proactively address.
Just as in the summer when we provided tips for preventing heat stress who are at the forefront of the elements, extreme cold is a factor. In fact, current weather predictions include dangerous snow and ice threats from the West to the Northeast and everywhere in between potentially exposing workers to unprecedented harsh weather conditions.
I received some resources from one of our local OSHA outreach specialists who shared OSHA resources that are available to help workers stay safe, including a pamphlet on snow removal, a cold stress Quick Card in English and Spanish, and a Winter Weather web page.
According to the National Weather Service <http://www.weather.gov/, frostbite can occur within five minutes in temperatures between 0 degrees and -19 degrees Fahrenheit. Protective clothing is the most important way to avoid cold stress. The type of fabric also makes a difference. Cotton loses its insulation value when it becomes wet. Wool, silk and most synthetics, on the other hand, retain their insulation even when wet.
The following are recommendations for working in cold environments:
- Wear at least three layers of clothing. An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to wick moisture away from the body. A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
- Wear a hat or hood. Up to 40% of body heat can be lost when the head is left exposed.
- Wear insulated boots or other footwear.
- Keep a change of dry clothing available in case work clothes become wet.
- With the exception of the wicking layer do not wear tight clothing. Loose clothing allows better ventilation of heat away from the body.
- Remember – it is important to stay hydrated in cold weather too.
Just as in the summer, if a person shows signs of shock (bluish lips and fingernails and decreased alertness), starts having seizures or loses consciousness, call 911 Emergency Services and administer first aid accordingly.
The signs of hypothermia and cold stress can include shivering, poor coordination, pale skin and compromised breathing. Employees and managers should know what to look for and be confident enough to make suggestions when they see somebody who may be at risk or already succumbing to the cold.
Please take some time to read up on cold stress and share this with your project teams to stay safe. #GilbaneCares