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Staying Safe While Working in Cold Weather
This time of year is especially hard on those in the construction industry. You might need to work in unheated buildings or outdoors. The weather could be wet, making the cold weather even harsher on your body.
The general term for injury by cold is "Cold Stress." Cold stress can be trench foot, frostbite, or hypothermia.
Trench foot is a non-freezing injury that can happen when feet are wet in cold conditions. Symptoms of trench foot are reddening skin, tingling, pain, swelling, leg cramps, numbness, and blisters. If you or a co-worker has these symptoms, remove shoes, dry feet, and avoid walking until symptoms subside.
Frostbite is when skin tissue freezes. Frostbite is severe and can cause permanent damage. Symptoms of frostbite are reddened skin that turns gray or white in patches. If you begin to see signs of frostbite, cover the area with cloth, protecting the skin. Do not try and warm the skin by rubbing it or with heating pads. This can further damage the skin.
Hypothermia happens when the body temperature dips to 95 degrees or less. Symptoms of hypothermia are loss of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, slow heart rate, and falling unconscious. Once signs of hypothermia are evident, call 9-1-1; while awaiting an ambulance, move the employee to a warm/dry environment, wrap the body in a blanket, and give the person sweet, warm drinks (no alcohol).
Stay safe this winter by staying aware of cold stress symptoms and mitigating them before they become a real issue.