Protecting Critical Workers as Cold Weather Approaches
October 1, 2022
Extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, increase the risk of worker injuries. A Spanish study examining nearly 20 years of data on approximately 16 million injuries requiring one or more days of leave, found that extreme cold raised injury risk by four percent.1
Cold weather risks run the gamut from slipping on ice to driving in winter conditions to cold stress, when skin temperature drops, leading to decreased internal body temperature. Frostbite, hypothermia and trench foot are all forms of cold stress. Dampness from body sweat can speed up heat loss, and increased wind speed, or wind chill effect, can cause heat to leave the body more quickly. Certain health conditions, like hypertension, diabetes and poor physical conditioning, can further increase a worker’s risk of cold-related injury.2
Winter weather safety
So what can be done to keep workers safe as cold weather season nears? The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) lays out several recommendations for both workers and employers in cold weather environments. Among the recommendations for employers are:
- Providing appropriate cold weather gear such as hats, gloves and boots.
- Scheduling jobs for the warmer part of the day
- Providing warm areas for use during break periods where workers can change out of wet clothes.
- Providing warm liquids to workers.
- Offering wind-protective clothing based on air velocities.
Providing training on cold stress and cold strain, the body’s effort to compensate for body heat loss through vascular changes, increased metabolic heat production and shivering), including how to monitor yourself and coworkers for symptoms.3
For workers, NIOSH recommends avoiding touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin, carrying a thermos of hot liquid and including a thermometer and chemical hot packs in first aid kits.4 PPE is also a vital line of defense to stay safe and warm. Protecting the ears, face, eyes, hands and feet is critical, in addition to carrying spare cold weather gear, including socks, gloves, hats, jackets and blankets in case any of these items gets wet during a shift.
Honeywell is committed to protecting workers in all seasons throughout the year. Our top-notch, worker-focused products have been trusted for decades to protect workers in extreme conditions, including the severe cold. Visit our website for more information and helpful resources to be prepared for this year’s winter season.
3 and 4 - https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog