Cold Weather Injuries
Anyone working outside in cold winter weather needs to be aware of the dangers of cold-related injury and illness. This is true even in regions where extreme cold is rare, as complacency, lack of awareness or lack of preparation may mean employees are more at risk than in areas where cold weather in winter is the norm.
Cold Weather Work Precautions
- Know the Risk: Educate all employees about the signs and symptoms of cold-related injuries and illnesses, including rewarming techniques, first-aid treatment, appropriate clothing and eating and drinking recommendations. Include specific guidance on when to seek medical help—for example in instances of frost bite or hypothermia.
- Start Slow: Allow new employees to gradually adjust to cold weather working conditions, and check-in with them to make sure they are comfortable.
- Stay Connected: Ask employees to work in pairs, especially when temperatures drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Encourage them to pay attention to each others’ well-being and take frequent breaks.
- Adjust as Needed: Where feasible, schedule outside work for the warmest hours of the day. Allow employees to set their own pace of work. Reschedule work activities as necessary to ensure safety.
- Be Prepared: Make sure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available at all times and direct employees to wear it. This includes eye protection when exposed to blowing snow or crystals.
- Use Safe Heat: Use safe heat sources such as air jets and radiant heaters to warm workers in sedentary outdoor work stations—for example security guards.
- Wear Layers: Make sure anyone working outside is wearing multiple layers of warm weather clothing, including hats, gloves and appropriate footwear.
Ultimately, much of what employees need to do to stay safe might seem like common sense—yet employees may not always be thinking about their own safety when there is an urgent job to be done. That’s why it’s important to create a culture where safety comes first, and employees are aware that you will support them in making decisions that keep them safe.