Getting Ready for Cold Weather Work
Now that a long hot summer is behind us we are faced with the opposite extreme, a long cold winter. Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature (core temperature). This may lead to serious health problems, and may cause tissue damage, and possibly death. There are dangers to workers who are required to work in these conditions. These cold temperature dangers include:
- Trench Foot
Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. The lower the temperature, the more quickly frostbite will occur. Frostbite typically affects the extremities, particularly the feet and hands. Amputation may be required in severe cases.
Trench Foot, or immersion foot, is caused by prolonged exposure to wet, cold temperatures. It can occur at temperatures as high as 60°F if the feet are constantly wet. Non-freezing injury occurs because wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet. To prevent heat loss, the body constricts blood vessels to shut down circulation in the feet. The skin tissue begins to die because of lack of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in a buildup of toxic products.
Safety Tips for Workers
- Your employer should ensure that you know the symptoms of cold stress.
- Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers.
- Dress properly for the cold.
- Stay dry in the cold - moisture or dampness, e.g. from sweating, increases the rate of heat loss from the body.
- Keep extra clothing (including underwear) handy in case you need to change.
- Drink warm sweetened fluids (no alcohol).
- Use proper engineering controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by your employer.