Cold Weather Safety Tips

Brrrrrrrace Yourself for the Coooold!!

With it officially winter today(Dec 21st) cold arctic fronts will be headed our directions this winter and the temperatures and wild chills could drop to dangerously cold levels. These very cold temperatures can be hazardouseven deadlyto your health. Of course, no matter the temperature, the work must still get done. Workers can be exposed to hazards from cold indoors as well as outside. It’s very cold, for instance, in food storage areas. However, since its nearly January, it makes sense to be aware on working in frigid conditions outside.

As with all potential hazards, prevention is the best method for staying safe in the cold. To prevent cold problems by taking these precautions:

· Limit exposure to cold, especially if it’s windy or humid if possible.

· Be especially careful if you’re older, overweight, or have allergies or poor circulation.

· Know that problems can arise in above-freezing temperatures.

· Know that problems can arise from touching a subfreezing object.

· Be especially careful if you smoke, drink, or take medications.

· Don’t bathe, smoke, or drink alcohol before going into the cold.

When workers must spend time in the cold, wear layers of loose dry clothing with cotton or wool under layers and a waterproof top layer. In addition, workers also need to:

· Cover head, hands, feet, and face.

· Dry or change wet clothing immediately.

· Keep moving when they’re in the cold.

· Take regular breaks in warm areas.

· Move to a warm area if they feel very cold or numb.

· Drink a warm, nonalcoholic, decaffeinated beverage.

According to OSHA, cold stress can occur when the body is unable to warm itself. This can lead to tissue damage and possibly death.

Four factors contribute to cold stress:

· Cold air temperatures

· High wind

· Dampness of the air

· Contact with cold water or cold surfaces

A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Cold air, water, and snow all draw heat from the body.

OSHA also points out that while below-freezing conditions and inadequate protection can bring about cold stress, problems can also occur with much higher temperatures, even in the 50s, when coupled with rain and wind.

What happens in the cold? Energy is used to warm the body’s internal temperature. Over time, the body will begin to shift blood from the extremities and outer skin to the core (the chest and abdomen). This allows exposed skin and the extremities to cool rapidly, increasing the risk of problems.

The most common cold-induced problems are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.

Hypothermia occurs when body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced. When the core body temperature drops from the normal 98.6F to around 95F, symptoms generally begin, including uncontrollable shivering, weakness, confusion, drowsiness, and pale, cold skin.

There are three stages of hypothermia.

· Impending hypothermia

· Mild hypothermia

· Severe hypothermia

Impending hypothermiaoccurs when the body’s core temperature drops to 95°F (35°C). The skin may become pale, numb and waxy. Muscles become tense. Fatigue and weakness begin to show.

The treatment for impending hypothermia includes removal from the cold, wet environment, providing external heat (fire, blankets) and providing hot drink (no alcohol, tea or coffee).

Mild hypothermiaoccurs when the body’s core temperature drops to 93.2°F (34°C). Uncontrolled shivering begins. The individual is still alert, but movement becomes less coordinated and some pain and discomfort exists.

The treatment for mild hypothermia includes removal from the cold environment, keeping the head and neck covered to prevent further heat loss and providing warm, sweetened drink (no alcohol, tea or coffee) and high-energy food.

Severe hypothermiaoccurs when the body core temperature drops below 87.8°F (31°C). The skin becomes cold and may be bluish in color. The individual is weak, and uncoordinated. Speech is slurred, and the victim appears exhausted, denies problem and may resist help. Gradually there is a loss of consciousness with little or no breathing occurring. The individual may be rigid and appear dead.

The treatment for severe hypothermia includes immediate external warming. One method may be by placing the victim in a warmed sleeping bag with two other people. Keep the miner awake and apply mild heat to stop loss of heat, not to re-warm.

Check for pulse and breathing. If neither is present, begin CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation. Continue until medical help arrives.

Treat hypothermia by protecting the victim from further heat loss and seeking immediate medical attention. Get the victim out of the cold. Add insulation such as blankets, pillows, towels or newspapers beneath and around the victim. Be sure to cover the victim’s head. Replace wet clothing with dry clothing. Handle the victim gently because rough handling can cause cardiac arrest. Keep the victim in a horizontal (flat) position.

Frostbite occurs when the skin actually freezes and loses water. In severe cases, amputation of the frostbitten area may be required. Frostbite usually affects the extremities. The affected body part will be cold, tingling, stinging, or aching, followed by numbness. The skin turns red in color, then purple, then white, and is cold to the touch. In severe cases, there may be blisters.

When are you at Risk of Frostbite?
Typically frostbite happens during periods of prolonged exposure to temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can happen in a matter of minutes in extremely cold conditions (like below zero). Cold winds increase the likelihood of frostbite, as the air circulates body heat away from the skin more quickly. Other factors that can lower the bodys defenses include hunger, dehydration, and exhaustion. Frostbite most commonly affects the toes, fingers, ears, chin, cheeks, and nose — body parts that are often left uncovered.

Three Stages of Frostbite

The first stage is frostnip, characterized by a feeling of pins and needles and your skin turning very white and soft. If you catch frostbite at this stage, you won’t suffer any permanent damage. It can be treated by soaking in warm water or breathing your warm breath on the affected area.

Superficial frostbite is the next stage. Your skin now feels numb, waxy and frozen to the touch. Blistering may occur and ice crystals may form in your skin cells, which permanently changes the cell structure.

The last stage is deep frostbite, the most serious stage, which can lead to permanent damage, blood clots, gangrene, even loss of your affected limb. All tissues, including blood vessels, muscles, nerves, and bone may be frozen. You won’t be able to feel a thing. It is critical to seek medical attention as quickly as possible to minimize the damage.

Frostbite First Aid
In the absence of professional medical attention, here are a few first-aid tips for frostbite:

· Bring the person into a warm room as quickly as possible and rest the injured areas

· If feet are frostbitten, avoid walking and elevate them

· Remove any wet or restrictive clothing that could hinder circulation

· Warm the area by soaking it in warm (not hot) water for at least 35 to 45 minutes, or until the affected area feels warm and sensation returns

· Do not rub

· During the warming process, the patient may complain of severe pain and the frostbitten area may swell; this is normal

· Afterward, cover the area with a clean bandage or cloth

· Do not begin the warming process if the person will be exposed to the cold again

· Do not use dry heat, such as a heating pad, fire, radiator, or heater to warm the area; because the skin is numb, it will not feel the heat and could get burned

Trench foot, or immersion foot, is caused when the feet are immersed in cold water at temperatures above freezing for long periods of time. It is similar to frostbite, but considered less severe. Symptoms include tingling, itching, or a burning sensation.

Recognizing the symptoms of cold injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia. Use this table as a handout:

FROSTBITE HYPOTHERMIA
Feeling uncomfortably cold Feeling cold
Feeling numb Pain in extremities
Feeling tingling, aching, or brief pain Shivering
Skin going from white to grayish yellow to reddish violet to black Numbness and/or stiffness
Skin blisters Poor coordination
Unconsciousness Drowsiness
Slow or irregular breathing or heart rate
Slurred speech
Cool skin
Puffy face
Confusion
Apathy

What actions to take if they have these symptoms. Use this table:

FROSTBITE HYPOTHERMIA
Dont rub body part or apply heat lamp or hot water bottles. Call for medical help.
Dont go near a hot stove. Give artificial respiration if needed.
Dont break blisters. Move into warm area.
Warm frozen body part quickly with sheets or blankets or warmnot hotwater. Get out of frozen, wet, or tight clothes.
Exercise warmed body partbut don’t walk on feet. Bundle in warm clothes or blankets.
Get medical attention if needed. Drink something warmbut no caffeine or alcohol.
Elevate frozen body part and cover with sterile cloths before moving. Cover with warm blankets if possible use a survival blanket.

Coping with the Cold

Here are some cold weather safety recommendations for employees exposed to the elements on the job during the winter. Most apply equally to employees who engage in recreational or other outdoor activities on their own time.

· Wear at least three layers of clothingan outer layer, such as Gortex, to break the wind; a middle layer of down or wool to absorb sweat and provide insulation; and an inner layer of cotton or synthetic weave to allow ventilation.

· Wear a hat. Considerable heat escapes the body from the head.

· Have a change of dry clothing available in case work clothes become wet.

· Wear loose rather than tight clothing for better ventilation.

· Follow safe work practices when exposed to cold, including drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration, working during the warmer parts of the day when possible, taking breaks out of the cold, working in pairs, and consuming warm, high-calorie food.

· Use engineering controls such as radiant heaters, shielding work areas from drafts or wind, and insulating material on equipment handles.

· Be able to identify symptoms of cold-related problems.

In addition to cold stress and job hazard identification, your workers have other safety responsibilities. Here are my “Top Ten”:

1. Know and follow safe work procedures.

2. Avoid obvious unsafe acts, such as running through the work area or tossing tools.

3. Keep the work area clean and uncluttered. Keep aisles and stairways clear, clean up spills, properly dispose of flammable scrap, and take other steps to eliminate items or conditions that could create a hazard.

4. Report accidents, injuries, illnesses, exposures to hazardous substances, and near-misses immediately.

5. Report situations that don’t seem right even if you’re unsure they’re hazards. This is especially important if you’re working with hazardous chemicals; where symptoms that appear to be minor, like a headache or red skin, may be the first indicator of overexposure.

6. Cooperate with internal inspections and job hazard analyses.

7. Follow company safety rules. They combine government laws and regulations with the experience of many people in this company and this industry.

8. Look for ways to make the job safer. Do your part to improve safety by voicing your observations and making suggestions.

9. Participate in safety training. Apply what you learn and help co-workers when they’re unsure of what to do.

10. Treat safety as one of your most important job responsibilities. Your job is not only to perform particular tasks and get particular results: It’s to do those things safely.

WINTER WEATHER TERMS -The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gives us the following definitions:

Winter Storm Warning: Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Winter Storm Watch: Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.

Winter Storm Outlook : Issued prior to a Winter Storm Watch. The Outlook is given when forecasters believe winter storm conditions are possible and are usually issued 3 to 5 days in advance of a winter storm.

Blizzard Warning: Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more, and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below ¼ mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.

Lake Effect Snow Warning: Issued when heavy lake effect snow is imminent or occurring.

Lake Effect Snow Advisory: Issued when accumulation of lake effect snow will cause significant inconvenience.

Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

Wind Chill Advisory: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure, and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to hazardous exposure.

Winter Weather Advisories: Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.

Dense Fog Advisory: Issued when fog will reduce visibility to ¼ mile or less over a widespread area.

Snow Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or light dusting is all that is expected.

Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.

Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

Sleet: Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists.

Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.

Why It Matters

· OSHA reports that there is a danger of freezing to exposed flesh within 1 hour at temperatures of 10° Fahrenheit (F) (-12.2° Celsius) and above.

· There’s danger of freezing to exposed flesh within 1 minute at temperatures between -20°F and 10°F.

· There’s danger of freezing to exposed flesh within 1 second at temperatures below -20°F.

· Wind speeds raise the temperatures at which freezing dangers occur; visit osha.gov/Publications/osha3156 (OSHA Cold Card) for more details.

COLD WEATHER DRIVING

Before you Drive

Driving in winter weather falling leaves, snow, ice, wet and cold – creates a great challenge for vehicles and drivers. Keeping yourself and your vehicle in good technical repair reduces your overall chances of any mishap or disaster while driving in winter weather. Even if your vehicle has permanent four-wheel drive, remember that not every one else on the road does.

To prepare your vehicle for winter driving give it a complete check-up – electrical system (battery, ignition and lights); brakes; tires; exhaust; wipers; fluids, radiator/antifreeze and heating/cooling system. Keep your fuel tank near to full to ensure that you do not run out.

It is particularly important to check your tires are in good order, and have plenty of tread depth. Well-maintained tires can have a major effect on stopping distances on wet and slippery roads. Weekly checks, or when refueling, are recommended.

In really extreme weather, prepare an emergency kit for your vehicle. Include things that cater for the unexpected – what would you need if you found yourself stranded miles from help during a snowstorm? Include things like warm clothing, boots, gloves or mittens, flashlight with fresh batteries, snow shovel, blankets, and fresh first-aid supplies.

During bad weather let people know where you are going, your route of travel, and when you expect to arrive. Plan your driving and likely arrival time in advance. Never drive if fatigued or under the influence of alcohol. Allow for extra traveling time or even consider delaying a trip if the weather is poor. Is an alternative method of travel possible? Listen to weather forecasts, and if weather and visibility are hazardous, ask yourself is this trip really necessary?

On the Road

Drive according to current road and weather conditions. Whenever driving conditions are less than ideal, it pays to be cautious. Make sure that all windows (front, side and rear) and mirrors are clear and that wipers and defrosters are in good working condition.

Drive slowly with low beam headlights on if visibility is poor, test your brakes frequently, leave a bigger gap and never tailgate. Posted speed limits are for ideal travel conditions. Driving at reduced speeds and at a safe distance from the vehicle in front is the best precautionary measures against any misfortune while driving on slippery roads. Lengthen your following distance behind the vehicle ahead of you – stopping distances double on slippery roads.

Deer are more active in the fall and early winter, meaning more animals will be out on the road. Always remember to drive at a speed that you know you can stop in the distance you can see to be clear.

Remember Winter Safety First, Winter Safety Always!

Information from OSHA, National Safety Council and American Red Cross

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Ken Oswald, Safety and Security Manager for Plateau koswald@plateautel.com