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J.J. Keller & Associates offers these tips for workers in cold weather:
Wear adequate personal protective clothing. Three layers of clothing is recommended: an outer layer to act as a windbreaker, made of water-resistant material such as Gortex® or nylon; a middle layer of wool or synthetic fabric to absorb sweat and retain insulation; and an inner layer which promotes wicking of sweat and ventilation. Employees should keep a change of clothes on hand in case clothes become wet.
Protect the feet and head. Up to 40 percent of body heat can be lost when the head is exposed. Footgear should be insulated to protect against cold and dampness. A mid-day change of socks can help keep feet warm. Use chemical heat packs for hands and feet.
Implement engineering controls. Use an onsite heat source such as air jets or radiant heaters or shield work areas from drafty or windy conditions. Provide a heated shelter for employees who experience prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures or wind chills. Use thermal insulating material on equipment handles.
Alter work schedules. Allow a period of adjustment to the cold before beginning a full work schedule. Reduce the number of activities performed outdoors as much as possible. Have employees work in the cold during the warmest hours of the day. Alternate indoor and outdoor work if possible and have employees work in pairs or in groups.
Permit employees to take warm-up breaks. Allow employees to take breaks as needed to keep warm. Encourage employees to stay hydrated, but it is best to avoid caffeinated beverages, which can inhibit the body's response to the cold. Have warm fluids on hand such as decaffeinated coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
Final tip: Provide training on signs of cold-related stress. Be sure employees know the warning signs and symptoms of hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot if the work involves standing in wet or damp areas. Be sure they know what to do and what not to, in case a coworker exhibits these symptoms.
KOL Can Help
Check out the Temperature extremes topic for information on working in cold climates. Cold weather workers need to consume more calories and drink plenty of water – the body requires both to create heat. Select the warmest part of the day to perform activities. Provide training on the symptoms of cold stress and to use the buddy system so that they can keep an eye on one another.
Another topic, Cold stress equation, shows the relationship between low temperatures, wetness, and wind speed and hypothermia. There is also a link in that topic to an OSHA letter of interpretation on hand protection for cold environments.
And don't forget about how the other KellerOnline Fun Stuff in the Training Center! This area provides you with cartoons, clip art, and games and puzzles to help make your cold weather training more effective.
Knowing the facts on cold exposure and following a few simple guidelines can ensure that this winter season is a safe and healthy one.