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How to prevent winter chills as an outdoor worker

When most people think about brutal winters, they think about Alaska, Minnesota or Wisconsin as the kings of the snowy season. However, east coast residents know how brutally cold the east coast gets, especially as we head into January.

It makes it crucial that employees start to brace for the low temperatures and snowy streets before any blizzards hit. Luckily, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration brings awareness to the dangers of cold weather for outdoor employees and how to fight them.

Winter brings more than cold temperatures

One of the most dangerous aspects of working outside during the winter is the extremely cold temperatures. The colder it gets, the more energy employees must use to stay warm. The most common health risks with extreme cold include hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot (an injury where the feet get swollen and numb.

Winter also means more snow and wet surfaces, which causes accidents for most employees. Imagine slipping on a patch of ice or falling from a slippery surface. It could cause major injuries or possible fatalities for some workers.

Protect yourself from the winter blues

There are several ways that employees (and employers) can prevent severe injuries due to the cold, such as hypothermia or cold stress:

  • Wear the appropriate clothing, including lots of layers
  • Make sure to protect your face, hands, feet and ears by wearing cold-weather gear
  • Take frequent breaks in a warm, dry shelter to warm up
  • Have multiple snacks and warm beverages
  • Work with a partner so that you can identify dangerous signs in one another
  • Know the symptoms of cold-induced injuries/illnesses and how to help

It’s critical to know that not all cold-induced illnesses are preventable. If you or another employee show signs of hypothermia, make sure to seek medical attention right away and move the person into a warm room or shelter. You may be able to seek workers’ compensation afterward.


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