While the temperatures continue to drop this winter, some employees continue to work outside in the frigid weather. Working outdoors during the winter months can pose several health risks for workers. Businesses should ensure that their employees are taking the right winter work safety training procedures to avoid dangers such as hypothermia.
There are many types of employees who are at higher risk of working in the brutally cold weather. According to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, postal workers, construction workers, miners, baggage handlers, utility workers, and cleanup crews are more likely to develop adverse health effects from spending extended amounts of time in the cold.
“When the body cannot warm itself, cold-related stress may result in tissue damage and possibly death,” according to EHS Today. “A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Cold air, water, and snow all draw heat from the body. The most common problems faced in the cold are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.”
Here are a few tips employers can take to protect their workers from winter conditions:
Wear protective clothing
While most workers believe that multiple layers are the right way to go, the type of fabric can make all the difference. According to EHS Today, cotton functions less effectively as insulation when damp. Still, materials such as silk, wool, and most synthetics retain their insulation even when wet. Workers should wear at least three layers, but an inner layer of silk, wool, or synthetic should be worn to absorb moisture from the body.
Planning for cold weather
It often comes as no surprise that outdoor workers require more preparation for the colder months than indoor workers. However, wearing warm clothes isn’t the only safety precaution outdoor workers should take when prepping to go outside. According to EHS, employees should be aware of how their body reacts to the cold weather, which can prevent cold stress. Workers should also avoid alcohol, smoking, and other medications while working in the freezing temperatures.
Maintain a Healthy and Filling Diet
Workers should always stay well-fed while out in the cold weather to keep their bodies warm. According to Workplace Safety North, outdoor workers should consume a higher-calorie diet in the cold months. It’s best to eat six to eight snacks throughout the day instead of two heavy meals. Workers should get approximately 50 percent of their calorie intake from carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and certain cheeses.
Outdoor workers should reach out to HR to see what steps employees should take while laboring through the cold months.