7 Cool Tips to Prevent Hypothermia and Frostbite

George Davis

Your Personal Safety Protocol to Avoid Hypothermia

Yesterday, we discussed the importance of keeping work areas clear of cold stress hazards, such as snow and ice. Cold temperatures can be a fatal threat to every worker, so you need a personal safety protocol to avoid hypothermia. By following proper procedures in getting rid of unwanted ice and snow, you avoid the heightened risk of slipping or falling on the job. 

Unfortunately, the cold weather brings with it more risks that are invisible to the naked eye. Actually, they’re really invisible. With the dropping temperature across the nation, workers are under the threat of suffering from cold stress. Those who belong to the construction, agriculture, maritime and commercial fishing industries are the most exposed to the fatal hazards of cold weather.

Cold stress can be a fatal threat to every worker. Once exposed to cold or freezing temperature for long periods of time, they run the risk of losing a serious amount of body heat. If not treated immediately, this could lead to brain damage and even death.

Here are safety tips to prevent cold stress or cold-induced illnesses or injuries:

1. Train employees for the cold and changing weather

Training sure is a timeless necessity in the workplace. In these colder days, workers must be trained not only about cold-induced illnesses and injuries, but also to determine environmental or work site conditions that may cause cold stress. They should be especially trained in recognizing the signs and symptoms of cold stress or cold-induced injuries like hypothermia and frostbite.

Here are signs and symptoms of hypothermia:

  • Cool skin
  • Slower, irregular breathing
  • Slower heartbeat
  • Weak pulse
  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Severe shaking
  • Rigid muscles
  • Drowsiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory lapses

The following are signs and symptoms of frostbite:

  • Paleness of the skin
  • Sensation of coldness or pain
  • Pain disappears after a while with the freezing of the tissues.
  • Tissues become increasingly whiter and harder.

2. Use a buddy system

Sure, you may want to be left to yourself while working. But believe me, this is not the time to enjoy solitude while accomplishing your tasks outdoors. You don’t want to be working one minute and thawing your fingers the next.

So get a partner and work on monitoring each other for signs of cold stress. Don’t be stubborn because most of the time, it’s just difficult to determine danger signs when you only have yourself to rely on.

3. Adjust your work schedule to the cold or changing weather

Don’t punish yourself too much. Just because you have to work outside and it feels like stepping into a walk-in freezer, it doesn’t mean you have to bask in the frigid winds all day.

Schedule work during the warmest part of the day. Break a task into shifts so you can take frequent, short breaks in warm dry shelters.

4. Layer clothing

At this time of the year, the saying “less is more” surely does not hold true. Well, maybe partly true since wearing less clothes means getting exposed to more cold-stress-related threats.

Remember that it’s better to go for several thin layers of clothing instead of wearing just a couple of thick layers. For clothes next to the skin, choose those with synthetic fabrics to avoid absorption of sweat. An ideal choice is polypropylene. For your outer layer, choose fabrics made of waterproof and wind-resistant material.

5. Wear complete PPE

You know you need it. Wear warm gloves, hats and hoods. In extreme conditions, don a warm woolen hood that covers your neck, head and ears. If you get hot while working, just open your jacket. Don’t remove your hat and gloves. The key is in wearing clothing that can be adjusted to changing conditions.

Avoid wearing tight-fitting footwear as this restricts blood flow. Your shoes or boots should allow you to wear either one thick or two thin pairs of socks.

6. Eat and drink hot or warm foods and liquids

You might have to say goodbye to hot coffee and cocoa for a while. Do not drink caffeinated and alcoholic beverages while working in cold weather. Instead, go for warm, sweet beverages like sports drinks and sugar water. Keep in mind that you are also at risk of dehydration under cold weather so make it a habit to drink up.

Good news, though. You can feast on hot pasta dishes, soups and other foods rich in calories. Remember, though, that if you’re sick or under medication, you are more at risk to get cold stress. This is especially true if you have hypertension, diabetes or a cardiovascular disease.

7. Wear eye protection

Ice or snow + excessive ultraviolet rays = eye injury. Yes, this is one proven equation. Before working outside, check first if you may be exposed to glare or, worse, blowing ice crystals. If conditions point to the affirmative, then go wear the right kind of eye protection.

Call (888) 247-6133 today to speak with one of our safety solutions experts about your personal safety protocol to avoid hypothermia.

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