Published Date: 02/24/2014
By Reneé Watkins
The recent, back-to-back blasts of frigid weather remind us of the toll long-term exposure to cold can have on a person. If you have not already done so, remind your employees of safety rules and procedures to keep them from sustaining injuries both inside and outside the workplace in this type of weather. These same tips can also be applied during off-work hours around the home or community.
Long-term exposure to frigid temperatures can lead to a condition known as “cold stress.” Cold stress occurs when a body is unable to warm itself. Such a condition can cause tissue damage and possible death if the exposure is for a long period of time.
Factors contributing to cold stress include:
- Cold temperatures
- Windy conditions
- Damp air
- Water or wet surfaces
In extreme cold conditions, the body must work harder to maintain its constant temperature. While the above factors tend to draw heat from the body, a combination of these factors can accelerate cold stress. For example, an above-freezing temperature of 40°F and winds of 35 mph feel like a temperature of 11°F to exposed skin. Wet conditions, such as playing in the snow, can further the hazard by lowering the temperature even more.
Here are a few tips that may help to protect you from the effects of winter weather:
- Wear at least three layers of clothing:
- Outer layer to protect against the wind (water resistant material)
- Middle layer to provide insulation against the cold (wool, etc.)
- Inner layer to allow the skin to breathe (cotton, etc.)
- A hat will limit the amount of body heat that escapes from the head
- Keep a dry change of clothing available in case you get wet
- Wear loose-fitting clothing to allow ventilation
- Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water
- Schedule outside work/activities during the warmest part of the day
- Take breaks from the cold to go inside and get warm
- Adopt a buddy system so someone knows where you are working or playing
- Stop when you feel yourself getting tired
- Eat high-calorie food to fuel the body
Remember, only go outside if you have to and do not stay out too long. Protect yourself and take all safety precautions for family and co-workers.