November24

Cold Stress

By John Howell

It is that time of year again, weather can often be unpredictable and extreme. Freezing temperatures can create serious health problems, collectively called cold stress.

Cold Stress Factors            

  • Freezing or near-freezing weather
  • Strong winds
  • Being wet
  • Working for long periods in extreme cold
  • Working in poorly-insulated or poorly-heated areas
  • Being unaccustomed to freezing weather

Preventive Measures

  • Monitor yourself and your coworkers for signs of cold stress.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, such as waterproofed and insulated boots, hats, and multiple layers of loose clothing. Particularly protect all extremities.
  • Always carry cold weather gear, such as extra socks, gloves, hats, jackets, blankets, water, food, and a thermos of hot liquid.
  • Carry a change of clothes and use them if clothes get wet.
  • Limit the amount of time spent in cold, wet environments. Move into warm, dry locations during breaks.
  • Do not touch cold metal surfaces with bare skin.

Cold Stress Conditions

Hypothermia:

Description: A medical emergency in which the body cannot warm itself

Causes: Lengthy exposure to freezing weather

Symptoms: Shivering at the onset or not later, fatigue, confusion, disorientation, blue skin, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing, or loss of consciousness

First aid: Remove wet clothes, keep the victim warm and dry with blankets, and give the victim warm drinks (if conscious). Monitor consciousness, and get medical help.

Frostbite:

Description: Damage to body tissue, mostly in the extremities

Causes: Lengthy exposure to freezing weather

Symptoms: Skin that is aching, tingling, stinging, bluish, pale, or waxy

First aid: Immerse the skin in warm but not hot water or, if that is not possible, warm very gently with body heat, without rubbing or pressure. Get medical help.

NOTE: Always promote a discussion on any of the topics covered in the Tool Box Talks. Should any question arise that you cannot answer, don’t hesitate to contact your Employer.

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