Five Ways For Outdoor Workers To Prevent Cold-related Injuries

Temperatures are plunging, which unfortunately means an increase in the number of weather-related health hazards for those who work outdoors. Frostbite, hypothermia, and trench foot are common illnesses that occur for those in the construction industry.  Workers who are exposed to the elements without the proper personal protective equipment run the risk of going into shock which can ultimately prove fatal.  The following are some tips to safeguard from cold-related illnesses while working outdoors:
  1. Be sure you can identify the signs and symptoms of cold-related illness and injuries. Look for shivering, exhaustion, mental confusion, and/or slurred speech.  
  2. Using a buddy system is crucial as it is often difficult to determine danger signs when you only have yourself to rely on. 
  3. Wear your PPE. Warm gloves, hats and/or hoods. Winter liners that cover the head, neck, and ears are desirable in extremely cold conditions. It is also best to wear layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions. If you get hot, you can simply open your jacket but don't remove your hat or gloves. 
  4. Warm foods and liquids are excellent ways to keep the body temperature up. Choose warm sweet beverages such as sports drinks, sugar water, apple cider. Stay away from beverages with caffeine or alcohol as this can increase the risk of dehydration from the cold.
  5. Scheduling outdoor work during the warmest part of the day and taking frequent breaks in a warm, dry shelter is an effective way to circumvent cold-related stress.
For more tips and information, see  OSHA’s cold stress card.