Stay Warm: How to Protect Workers from Cold Weather Hazards

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Winter is almost here. It’s now time to start thinking about working outside in the cold weather and how to stay safe and warm.

If your workers are exposed to cold temperatures for long periods of time, they are at risk for such health conditions as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. Extreme exposure can also lead to death, in some cases.

There are many steps to take to ensure workers stay injury- and illness-free when working in cold environments.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) offers these suggestions to help keep workers safe in cold weather conditions:

  • Provide heated warming shelters (tents, cabins, restrooms).
  • Pace work to avoid excessive sweating.
  • Offer rest periods in a warm area where employees can change into dry clothes.

Equipment Design: Cover metal handles and bars with thermal insulating material. Design machines and tools so operators can wear mittens or gloves when using them.

Surveillance and Monitoring: Workplaces that fall below 16°C should have a thermometer that monitors temperature changes.

Emergency Procedures: Outline the procedures for providing first aid and getting medical care. A trained person should be responsible for this during each shift.

Education: Both workers and supervisors should be educated about the risks of exposure to cold and how to protect themselves. A buddy system can help workers identify symptoms in each other.

What extra steps do you take to ensure your workers stay safe in the cold weather? What more can you do to protect them and help them recognize the signs of cold weather illness?

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