Winter weather has arrived along with snow, ice, blustery winds, and frigid temperatures. If you work outdoors throughout the winter months, you need to keep yourself and your coworkers safe. Prepare for the elements with these extreme cold weather safety tips.
The right clothing is one of the best ways to protect yourself against freezing temperatures. Use loose-fitting layers to keep your body warm. For example, you could wear a turtleneck under a sweater and then add a coat. Accessories, such as wool-lined gloves, a warm hat, and waterproof boots, are important too. And don’t forget face gear. Covering your mouth with a scarf or a face mask protects your lungs from the cold air. Finally, double-check to make sure everything fits correctly. Tight clothing cuts off circulation and makes you colder, while loose clothing could catch on machinery and result in an injury.
Take Breaks to Warm Up
Even if you have chosen the best possible winter wear, those icy winds still can make you cold. So, take frequent breaks in a warm, dry place. Hot beverages and foods, like chili and soup, can keep your body temperature up too.
Know the Signs of Hypothermia
Hypothermia is an emergency condition that occurs when someone’s body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. This results in a critical drop in body temperature. Hypothermia is particularly dangerous because it begins gradually, and those affected may have no idea what is happening to them.
Symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Shivering (which may stop as hypothermia progresses),
- Slow, shallow breathing,
- Weak pulse,
- Loss of coordination,
- Slurred or mumbled speech,
- Confusion and memory loss,
- Drowsiness or exhaustion, and
- Loss of consciousness.
If you suspect someone is suffering from hypothermia, bring them indoors immediately and call 911. While you are waiting for help to arrive, remove any wet clothing and cover them with blankets.
Watch Out for Frostbite
Frostbite is another cold weather condition caused by the freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Although frostbite usually attacks exposed areas, it can happen even if you are wearing appropriate winter gear.
Signs of frostbite include:
- Burning, tingling, itching and/or cold sensations,
- Hard or waxy-looking skin,
- Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin,
- Blistering after rewarming.
If your hands, feet or face start to feel unusually cold, tingly or numb, go indoors. You can treat frostnip, a mild form of frostbite that doesn’t cause permanent skin damage, by gradually warming the affected areas. However, if you suspect you have frostbite, seek medical assistance.
Use the Buddy System
It’s easy to overlook the signs and symptoms of both hypothermia and frostbite on your own. Therefore, partner up with one or more of your coworkers when you are outdoors. By watching out for one another, everyone can stay safer.
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