Everyone knows the basics about winter health problems such as catching a cold or flu, but there are some health issues you might not be aware of. When the temperature drops it can cause our body to have what is a called cold stress and even heartaches (heartaches are 50% more likely to occur in the winter months). Cold stress can be caused by cold winds and rapid drop in body temperature. It doesn’t have to be ice and snow outside for cold stress to occur, regions that are not use to cold weather can be at risk for cold stress when the temperatures drop to freezing, which is only 32 degrees. Risk factors that increase cold stress include wet/damp clothing and exhaustion. In addition to predisposed health condition such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and hypertension which can make it worse. Some serious injuries or illnesses can occur because of cold stress including trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia.
The best way to prevent cold stress is to be proactive! OSHA suggests training your supervisors to know when an environment is at risk and tips to keep your employees safe.
OSHA tips for dressing appropriately:
- Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation. Do not wear tight fitting clothing.
o An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to keep moisture away from the body.
o A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
o An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
- Wear a hat or hood to help keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head.
- Use a knit mask to cover the face and mouth (if needed).
- Use insulated gloves to protect the hands (water resistant if necessary).
- Wear insulated and waterproof boots (or other footwear).
Other tips for working outdoors during the winter:
- Drink plenty of water. Many know you can dehydrate during the summer months, but you are just as susceptible during the winter months. The cold and dry air depletes your body of water.
- Try to do the heaviest work during the warmest part of the day
- Follow the buddy system to ensure employees keep an eye on each other.
- If possible, work in shifts and allow employees to rotate indoors to warm up and regulate their body temperature.
- Sweating can cause your body temperature to drop. Monitor your dampness and sweating throughout the day. We suggest keeping several pairs of sock on hand to remove damp and slushy socks. This area is the most likely to get wet.
We hope these winter work tips and health information helps you and your employees stay save this season. These are the coldest days of the year and safety should always come first! Dress warmly, be proactive and watch out for your fellow coworkers.
And remember spring is just 70 days away!