Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dont Leave Safety Out in the Cold

Safely working in the cold ...

"With winter looming just around the corner, outdoor workers are at risk of getting cold stress if the proper controls to minimize cold weather hazards are not in place.

The autumn season is upon us now, marking the transition from the sweltering temperatures of summer to the wet, blustery and icy weather conditions of winter. For workers – especially those who must spend part or all of their time outdoors – winter weather can be deadly.

In the winter months, construction industry workers, police and fire department personnel, mail carriers, transportation workers and any other workers whose occupations involve outdoor work are at the whim of Mother Nature. Cruel winds, temperatures that sometimes dip into the single and even negative digits, snow and freezing rain and sleet can cause workers to suffer from cold stress.

While much attention is paid to heat stress and its potentially deadly effects, very little is paid to cold stress.
Prolonged exposure to cold weather can invite an onslaught of injuries as serious as frostbite – an irreversible condition in which the the exposed part of the skin freezes – hypothermia and even death. In addition, prolonged exposure to cold weather can lead to other types of ailments. For example, exposure to cold can aggravate existing medical conditions such as arthritis, increase the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and affect dexterity, mental skills and coordination.

Despite the laundry list of hazards and ailments associated with cold stress, there are steps both workers and employers can take to minimize its risks. Leading safety and health experts share information about the causes of cold stress and what administrative and engineering controls employers can implement to protect workers.

Coping With Temperature Changes

Working in cold weather has its range of complexities. The most curious aspect of cold stress is that it doesn’t necessarily have to happen to workers on construction sites in Alaska or Minnesota, where winters are notoriously cold. In fact, cold stress mostly affects employees who work and live in places where the seasons change.

According to the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the most critical and crucial time with respect to cold weather and related disorders are the very first cold days of winter or an unexpected drastic change in temperature. In these cases, the body still may not have adjusted to the new environmental conditions or workers may not be properly attired for unexpected temperature drops."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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