Cold Stress Toolbox Talk

Learn about the effects of cold stress and how to prepare for cold days on the construction site.

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Cold Stress Safety Talk

When you have a job that you are doing and it requires you to be outside in the winter months, there are many hazardous situations that can occur. The main one being the amount of work that your body has to do to maintain your body heat. The amount of cold weather that you experience will depend on where you live and the type of weather they experience. The appropriate clothing should be worn to protect the health and wellness of the employees.

Safety Comes First

The safety and wellbeing of the employees at the workplace should come first. By providing the appropriate measures to protect the staff, it shows that the company values its employees. The last thing that any company wants is to have an employee get hurt on the job. The regulations that are set in place should be followed fully by the employees.

Some Cold Health Hazards Are:

1. Trench Foot

Some areas that people work in experience cold, snowy, wet winters. This is a condition that occurs when someone who is working outside, is constantly exposed to wet conditions, leaving their feet wet. In some instances, this can even happen to individuals who are subject to damp areas for a long time in up to 60-degree weather.

Your head and your feet are two areas of your body that heat can escape quickly, 25 times faster than the rest of your body. When your body can not control the body temperature due to the cold on the feet, it will begin to shut down. Blood flow is no longer pumping like it should, creating a lack of oxygen. If you suspect this is happening, you should quickly get the damp shoes and socks off your feet, and dry them thoroughly. Keep them elevated and try to not put any weight on them.

2. Hypothermia

When you are outside in the cold weather for prolonged amounts of time, your body is using up stored energy to stay warm. After a certain amount of time, hypothermia will begin to set in, you will lose functions to your limbs, and be unable to focus.

If you begin to experience the symptoms of hypothermia, seek medical attention quickly. If you are unable to do so yourself, have someone contact a supervisor immediately. The steps to remember when warming up someone who has hypothermia are:

Warm the chest first, then the neck, head, and groin with an electric blanket. You can use the skin to skin tactics along with blankets or whatever you have available if you do not have use of electric blankets. If the employee loses consciousness and isn’t breathing, call 911immediatley, and start CPR until emergency professionals can get there.

3. Frostbite

If you are working in an area that is particularly cold, it is important to take the necessary precautions to keep yourself warm. If you do not frostbite can occur. This is when an area of your body gets so cold, that it loses circulation. The most common areas to be affected are:

  • Ears
  • Chin
  • Cheeks
  • Fingertips
  • Toes
  • Nose
  • The symptoms are loss of feeling and color to the affected area. You should seek medical attention immediately as you can do permanent damage or even need an amputation. The process of trying to warm the areas up may cause some discomfort and stinging. They will try to warm up the affected area of your body with warm water.

    Safety Precautions For Cold Environments

    Working in an environment when there are potential risks, you should always follow the protocol fully. These rules and regulations are set in place to protect you and keep you safe. Some safe work practices for cold environments are as followed:

  • When you are on the job, try to keep a thermos of warm beverages with you. By doing this, it is going to warm your internal temperature. Helping to keep you warm and unharmed.
  • Working with a group, you all should pay close attention to each other. You are a team when you are together. If you notice signs or symptoms of harm or trouble in someone, help them out. Get them to a warm area and contact your supervisor for further direction.
  • Schedule breaks in a warm area throughout your shift outside. This will help you to avoid getting overly cold for a prolonged amount of time. Helping your body temperature to regulate and keep circulation moving.
  • It is important to make sure you have the appropriate type of clothing for the job. Layer your clothing to keep you nice and warm. Also, do your best to wear protection that is going to help keep you dry, and if you can’t, have a backup that you can change into if you get wet.
  • Hypothermia and Frostbite Explained

    Both hypothermia and frostbite can lead to very serious problems. It is very important that you take the proper precautions to protect yourself when your work requires you to be in the cold weather for prolonged amounts of time. Here is a clear definition of both terms:

    Hypothermia Definition

    This is when your internal body temperature drops extremely low, too low to keep your body alive. The body temperature of a hypothermic patient is 95 degrees or lower. That may not seem like a huge drop to you from a normal range of 95 degrees, but it most definitely is.

    Frostbite Definition

    When areas of your body get extremely cold, frostbite can set in. You will begin to notice when areas are getting too cold, there is a burning sensation that will begin to happen. It will be red in color and begin to lose feeling. You should always make sure your skin is covered as best as possible to prevent it.

    There are many serious side effects of these two illnesses. Hypothermia is life-threatening, as your body can not function at that low of a temperature. Frostbite can do permanent damage or it can lead to amputation of the affected area if it is not warmed soon enough.

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