Feeling the cold is never pleasant. But exposure to icy conditions over a prolonged period of time can cause extreme discomfort, reduced productivity and even harm to a person’s health. Have you considered how to protect your workforce against the dangers of cold stress?
Cold stress occurs when the body is unable to stay at the temperature it needs to function properly. This is turn can lead to severe problems such as hypothermia, permanent tissue damage and frost bite.
Being in sub-zero temperatures is unavoidable for those who work outdoors, making it imperative that their employers take measures to avoid the damage that cold stress can cause.
Protect your workforce from the effects of the cold
When it’s your responsibility to provide workers with a place of employment free from recognised hazards, there are several approaches that you can take to protect your workforce from the risks of working at extreme temperatures.
The following advice on protecting workers from cold stress was produced by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration but easily applies to anyone operating a workforce in extremely low temperatures:
- Train workers on how to prevent, recognise and treat cold stress illnesses and injuries.
- Provide outdoor heating and shield work areas from drafts or wind to reduce wind chill.
- Enable employees to keep hydrated and offer plenty of warm, sweetened liquids.
- Enable workers to keep an eye on each other for signs of cold stress through a buddy system.
- Offer frequent breaks in warm areas.
- Acclimatise new workers and those returning after time away from work, by gradually increasing workload, as they build up a tolerance to the conditions.
- Provide protective clothing – supply the right thermal wear for workers, including protective gloves, thermal layers, balaclavas, snoods etc.
- Encourage staff to layer up – outdoor workers should wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing. This provides better insulation as warm air is trapped in between the layers.
- Ensure that inner layers, such as thermal vests, long johns and snoods, are made from fabrics which avoid the absorption of sweat, such as polypropylene, while outer layers should be wind resistant and waterproof.
- Discourage tight fitting work shoes, as they can limit blood supply to the feet. Shoes should be roomy enough to allow the worker to wear thick or thermal socks without the shoes becoming tight.
- Enforce the wearing of a thermal knitted cap or hat or a hood as this helps keep the whole body warmer by preventing heat escaping from the scalp.
Get the right protection for your outdoors workers
The best way to ensure your workforce is safe and comfortable is to have the right plans in place for coping with the cold before it hits.
Contego Safety Solutions stocks a range of PPE, workwear and safety equipment, which is perfect for colder environments, offering effective protection for those who spend long periods of time working outdoors.
Discover Contego’s range of protective footwear, clothing and PPE – download the Contego Catalogue now or contact our friendly team on 0800 122 3323 or firstname.lastname@example.org for advice on protective clothing, footwear and accessories for winter working.