Construction teams, road crews, maintenance staff and snow removal crews are a few of the many workers who must endure the cold winter weather. Exposure to the elements can present a health and safety hazard, especially when the temperature dips below freezing.
The following seven winter safety tips can reduce the risks associated with working in cold weather:
- Dress appropriately: Wearing layers of loose-fitting clothing will help you stay warm without hindering movement. You can always remove a layer or two if the temperature starts to rise. Pay special attention to protecting your face, ears, feet and hands in freezing weather.
- Work in pairs: If you're in charge of assigning work crews, implement the buddy system when possible. Workers can then monitor each other to watch for effects of working in cold temperatures, such as the onset of frostbite or hypothermia.
- Schedule work for the warmest time of the day: If possible, schedule the bulk of outdoor work from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Try to avoid working just after dawn, which is the coldest time of day.
- Take frequent breaks: Retreat to a heated vehicle or building throughout the workday to warm up and rest. Regular breaks can help you avoid muscle fatigue.
- Keep dry: Moisture can cause your body temperature to drop quickly, which can lead to hypothermia. Wear a moisture-wicking base layer to draw perspiration like sweat, rain and snow away from your body. Use as much waterproof outer gear as possible when working in wet conditions.
- Stay nourished: Dehydration is a potentially dangerous effect of working in cold temperatures. The symptoms include dizziness, increased thirst, headache, dry skin and drowsiness. Eating high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods and drinking plenty of liquids will help your body stay warm and prevent the onset of dehydration.
- Know your risk level: Workers who have health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease are more vulnerable to the effects of working in cold weather. Individuals who take certain medications also face a higher risk. People in these situations may need to avoid working in cold weather.