5 Tips for Working Safely in Cold Climates
Working outdoors in cold climates is no easy task. NIOSH reports that in 2019, approximately 1,300 people in the U.S. died of hypothermia and nearly 32% of these deaths were occupationally related. Before working in cold climates, check out these five tips to stay safe.
1. Stay Informed and Plan Ahead
Monitor weather reports daily. Planning and preparing, both mentally and physically, for working outdoors helps employees remember the warning signs and the effects of cold-induced injuries and illnesses.
2. Acclimate to the Cold Climates
Getting acclimated to cold temperatures requires more than just wearing warmer clothing. Remember that acclimation will occur at different levels for each individual. Workers should gradually increase their workload and take frequent breaks in warm areas while getting accustomed to working in cold temperatures. Workers who suffer from a health condition, are taking medication or are in poor physical condition should use extreme caution.
3. Know the Signs and Symptoms
All outdoor workers should know the signs and symptoms of cold-induced injuries and illness and how to apply first aid treatment. Early symptoms include shivering, fatigue, loss of coordination and confusion and disorientation. Symptoms later include no shivering, blue skin, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing and loss of consciousness.
4. Use the Buddy System
Work in pairs while working outside in cold conditions. Cold-induced injuries and illnesses affect people differently. Teaching everyone the signs and symptoms can help prevent injuries.
5. Dress Properly
Workers must dress for the weather when working in cold climates. Keep in mind:
- Medium-weight clothing worn in layers will provide more warmth than single, bulky garments.
- Fabrics such as wool, silk and other synthetics retain their insulation, even when wet. Cotton fabrics draw heat from the body. When wet, goose down loses its insulation.
- Wear waterproof or water-repellent clothing. Wet clothing loses 90% of its insulating value.
- Brush off snow often to avoid moisture.
- Dress in several loose layers to add or remove layers for maintaining warmth without sweating. Sweating can increase the rate of heat loss from the body.
- Keep the ears, face, hands and feet protected in extremely cold or wet weather.
- Insulated and waterproof boots or shoes should be worn in cold weather. Two pairs of medium-weight socks are better than one pair of heavy socks.
Take precautions and work safe this winter. To learn more about keeping your employees safe on the road and on the job, consult with a BITCO agent. We are here for you!
For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.