Cold weather poses a danger to construction workers and equipment operators. By recognizing the physical and mental signals of cold-weather stress, individuals can know when to take action that prevents fatigue, accidents and injury to themselves.
When an individual is experiencing the following symptoms, they should immediately go to or be instructed to go to a location where they can warm up, drink warm water and rest for a few minutes. These symptoms include:
- Discomfort from cold stiff hands and feet, runny nose and shivering.
- Reduced manual skills, dexterity, coordination and accuracy.
- Stiffness of muscles and joints.
- Difficulty maintaining their core body temperature.
- Red, swollen, tender and itchy patches or skin.
- Trench foot – swelling, numbness, pain, discoloration and blisters.
- Frostbite – results when skin tissue freezes and is damaged.
People working in cold temperatures who are not wearing layered clothing, gloves and thin stocking hats beneath their hard hats can become hypothermic – a potentially fatal condition that results from a reduction in the body’s core temperature. The symptoms – shivering, pain in extremities, numbness, loss of fine motor coordination, clumsiness, reduced alertness, very cold extremities – become evident as the body’s temperature drops below 91.4 degree Fahrenheit.
Co-workers who have been working in cold weather for an extended time and who appear to be experiencing weakness, confusion, slurred speech, drowsiness, reduced pulse and respiration, and who are not shivering should receive immediate medical attention.
How can cold stress be prevented?
OSHA recommends that employers should train employees to:
- Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that can lead to cold stress – low temperatures (45 degrees to below freezing), dampness and constant wind.
- Recognize the symptoms of cold stress, how to prevent cold stress, and what to do to help those who are affected.
- Select proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions.
- Stay constantly hydrated and eat more food when working outside in cold weather to provide the body with energy.
- Monitor workers’ physical conditions.
- Schedule frequent and short breaks in warm dry areas to allow the body to warm up.
- Schedule work during the warmest part of the day.
- Use the buddy system (work in pairs).
- Provide warm, sweet beverages.
- Provide heaters.
Neff Rental branches are equipped with indoor heating systems inside the service bays and ensure that road mechanics and yard workers wear clothing that protects them from cold weather. Like you, we care about our employees and want them to work safely and be healthy during the winter months.
For more information about Neff Rental, visit www.NeffRental.com or call 888-709-NEFF.