Does your company provide a cold weather safety program for its employees who are required to spend a good part of their workday outside in colder months?
Cold Weather Safety Program Topics
If your company is going to provide information about staying safe when the weather gets frosty, here are some topics that should be covered:
Frostbite and Hypothermia
Frostbite occurs when the body's skin, bone and blood vessels freeze due to being exposed to extreme cold. It can occur when the body is exposed to temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Frostbite may be mild (called frostnip) or severe enough to affect bones and muscles.
Signs of frostbite include getting past the point of feeling cold to feeling numb. You might feel tingling, an aching sensation, or some pain. The skin may appear white or gray. If you start to experience these symptoms, get inside as soon as possible and warm the area with blankets and warm water. Gently massage the area to stimulate circulation and seek medical attention immediately.
Hypothermia occurs when the body's core temperature drops to a dangerously low level. A person who is suffering from hypothermia may experience chills and start shivering. As his or her temperature drops, these feelings are replaced by drowsiness and mental confusion.
If you suspect hypothermia, wrap the person up in warm blankets and make sure they don't fall asleep. Again, this is a medical condition that is very serious, and the person needs to be taken to an emergency room without delay.
Preventing Cold Weather Injuries
Some ways to stay safe while spending time outside in the winter are:
- Wear layers of clothing to keep warm; wear wool closest to your body and make sure the outermost layer is waterproof.
- Stop work and change into dry clothes if you get wet.
- Make sure your hands, fingers, face, and feet are properly covered at all times.
- Keep moving to stay warm.
- Take breaks from the cold by getting inside on a regular basis.
- Don't bathe right before you head outside.
- Don't consume alcohol; it inhibits the body's ability to shiver.
- Avoid smoking immediately before heading out in the cold; this product decreases blood flow going to the skin.
- Use sunscreen to protect exposed skin on the face and ears.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid snow blindness.
- Drink water or warm beverages (non-alcoholic) to prevent becoming dehydrated.
Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter
Getting a tune-up before colder weather strikes is a good way to avoid having your vehicle break down while on the road. Switching to a winter-weight oil is another smart move when driving in winter. Make sure that snow and ice is cleared from the windshield, windows, and the top of your vehicle before you head out. The vehicle's gas tank should be kept reasonably full to minimize condensation. Another reason why you should avoid letting the gas tank get too low is that you may want to run the engine to keep the vehicle heated if you happen to get stranded on the road.
General Winter Safety Tips
Carrying a well-charged cell phone is a good idea anytime you head outside. If an accident or injury occurs, you can call for help quickly.
Instead of trying to pass a snowplow, a better strategy is to follow it from a safe distance. (Remember that the driving conditions will probably be worse in front of the snowplow than behind it.)
If your job involves shoveling snow, be careful not to injure your back. Use a shovel with a long handle to avoid having to bend your body to accomplish this task. Bend your knees and use your legs when lifting.
These tips would not only be good additions to a cold weather safety program, but they should be kept in mind by anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors during that time of year.