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Wind Chill Index Toolbox Talk

Cold weather makes construction difficult and can create some serious health issues if not taken seriously. Use this toolbox talk to brief your crews about safety in cold weather with wind chill.

Wind Chill Index Safety Talk

Cold weather is a topic of concern when your job requires you to work in the elements. There are a number of workplace injuries that can happen when you are working outside in the cold weather. Some of the most common ones are trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia. The wind speed that is occurring can have a big impact on the temperature of the human body.

Wind Chill Index

When you work in construction, you work in a variety of temperatures all throughout the year. The cold weather is bad enough before you add in the wind. The temperature that is outside can drastically feel much colder when there are winds involved.

For example, a temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit with wind gusts of 20 MPH. It can make it feel like a temperature of -9 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The National Weather Service will issue weather chill advisories and warnings due to the dangers that are present when there is wind with cold weather.

With proper training and information, you can help to protect yourself from cold-related health hazards. Here are some of the most commonly used practices that you should utilize when working in the cold.

Be Aware Of The Workers Around You

When it is really cold outside, there are weather-related safety hazards you should watch for. Be aware of how you are feeling and take the necessary precautions. You should also be aware of the workers around you.

Pay attention to if they are experiencing any problems. If you suspect that there is a problem, get them to a warm area to assess what is happening. You can take further actions of help from there.

Take Breaks Regularly

Breaks are a very important part of your workday when it is really cold outside. Each worker needs to take advantage of their break time and find a warm place to be in. If there is not an area with heaters at the construction site, take a break in a warm vehicle. Your body needs time to warm up after spending a long period of time in the cold.

Take Time To Acclimate

When the weather first becomes cold for the seasons, your body isn’t going to be prepared. It will take you some time to acclimate yourself to the new temperatures. Give yourself some time to adjust. You are more likely to get sick from these temperatures if you force your body to take on too much suddenly.

Don’t Work In Extreme Conditions

If you have the ability to put work off when there are extremely cold temperatures, take that time and make a safe decision. Especially when there are cold and wet conditions outside. These instances can pose a safety hazard to people.

Wear Layers of Clothing

When you are working outdoors in cold temperatures, it is good to layer your clothing. This will help you to remain warmer throughout the working hours. If any of your layers become wet, you should remove them.

It can cause harm to your body when wet and cold clothing lays on your body. Your feet are one area that you should pay close attention to about getting wet. If your socks or boots get wet, change them.

Drink Warm Beverages

Before beginning your workday, you should try to consume at least one warm beverage. It can be hot apple cider, coffee, or tea. This will help to warm your body on the inside before heading out into the cold temperatures.

When you take your routine breaks, take advantage of warm areas. This is also a great time to drink a warm beverage. Your core temperature can help you to regulate your body temperature and stay warm.

construction worker in wind chill conditions.

What Is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a big concern for workers when it is really cold outside. Especially, when there is a wind chill causing it to feel much colder than it is. This happens when your body temperature drops too low and you aren’t able to raise it on your own.

The reason that your body temperature is so important is for the functioning of your body organs. If your body isn’t warm enough, your heart can’t pump the way it should. It will begin to be very difficult to breathe. It is very important that someone exhibiting signs of hypothermia get medical attention immediately. Some of the signs are:

  • Shivering

  • Slurred speech

  • Confusion

  • Memory loss

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Unstable on their feet

What Is Frostbite?

When a part of your body is exposed to extremely cold weather for a prolonged period of time, you can develop frostbite. This can also occur when you wear wet clothing in cold temperatures. The dampness can be from sweat, water, or other substances.

The nose, fingers, and toes are the most commonly known areas to get frostbitten. It damages the tissue in that area and discontinues the blood flow. Some of the signs to be aware of are:

  • Prickling feeling

  • Extremely cold skin

  • Numb feeling

  • Burning sensation

  • White or blue coloring

  • Blisters when it warms up

What Is Trench Foot?

Trench foot is a condition that can happen when your feet stay in wet conditions for prolonged periods of time. It is oftentimes referred to as immersion foot as well. This can happen in more than just extreme cold conditions, but in warm ones as well.

This condition is not so much about the temperature of the feet, but the amount of time that they have stayed in wet environments. It can be a very painful and uncomfortable situation to be in. Some of the signs to watch for are:

  • Stinging

  • Tingling

  • Numbness

  • Pain

  • Swelling

  • Itching

  • Cold and blotchy skin

  • The feeling of heaviness in the feet

  • Red and dry skin once out of the moisture

Knowledge Is Key

When you have the necessary knowledge of potential hazards, you can better protect yourself. Working in cold conditions is a common thing for construction workers. You need to have the education to know the warning signs of something being wrong.

With this information, you can help to better protect yourself and those around you. When hypothermia kicks in, people can become confused and disoriented. If that happens, it can be hard to get yourself to a safe location for help.

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