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The Journal for Employee Protection
The Journal for Employee Protection
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Tragically, the UK doesn’t share the same sunny climate as southern Spain, which means cold weather takes up a solid five months or so of the year. Because we have to deal with it so often, the dangers and need for suitable PPE for outdoor workers can’t be ignored. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about working in cold conditions and how to solve or minimise the risks involved. Let’s go!
Deciding whether it’s safe or not to work outside on a cold day can’t be based solely on the temperature alone; wind speed and humidity should also come into consideration.
In order to stay safe at work, these challenges should be counterbalanced by proper insulation (layering your PPE), physical activity and by controlled periods of exposure to the cold.
Air temperature is the standard measure made by an ordinary thermometer in degrees Celsius (°C) or degrees Fahrenheit (°F).
There are quite a few different types of anemometers on the market, which are used to measure wind speed or air movement. These are calibrated in metres per second (m/s), kilometres per hour (km/h) or miles per hour (mph). If this equipment is not available, the following can be used as an approximate guide:
This is the concentration of water vapour present in air. In humid conditions, the water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than dry air!
The production of body heat by physical activity (metabolic rate) is measured in kilocalories (kcal) per hour. One kilocalorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1°C. Although difficult to measure accurately, it emphasizes the need to be constantly on the move whilst working outside in cold weathers. Standing still for long periods of time will be detrimental to the workers’ health.
When working in cold conditions, warm-up breaks are required every so often (environment/conditions dependent) and then normal breaks to be provided every two hours.
AND THE SUBSEQUENT ACTIONS TO TAKE
It’s important to take these factors into consideration and make educated decisions about cold weather working.
This is because, unfortunately, there are a lot of associated hazards and dangers to contend with:
Hypothermia is a serious medical condition that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can be produced, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Your body should pretty much remain consistently at around 37°C, anything below 35°C can be harmful.
As mentioned above, the impact of the cold on an outdoor worker can be reduced by keeping the shifts short and remaining active. However, if a job takes longer than intended, or work is interrupted, or there’s sudden rain, it won’t take long to feel the consequences.
In the case of developing hypothermia, the body tries to combat the loss of heat by shutting down blood flow to the skin, arms and legs, and increase internal heat production by shivering.
Severe cases of hypothermia can be fatal, but even mild hypothermia will have a negative impact on your ability to think clearly or move well. This, of course, greatly increases the risk of further accidents.
Symptoms of hypothermia include:
Emergency services should be called in cases of hypothermia.
However, there are a few immediate first aid tips to follow until assistance arrive:
TO AVOID: You should always wear layers of clothing that can be removed or added as temperatures change. Personal Protective Equipment, such as waterproof boots, gloves and outer layers are also a must in winter months. You can read more about layering down below!
Frostbite is injury to the skin and body tissues caused by exposure to cold conditions, typically affecting the extremities of the body – i.e. nose, fingers, or toes. The colder it is the quicker frostbite will set in.
Symptoms of frostbite include:
Medical care should be sought as soon as possible in cases of frostbite.
In the meantime, while waiting for help, here’s some simple first aid that can be carried out:
TO AVOID: Similarly to hypothermia, layer up and stay dry!
This one applies not just to outdoor workers, but to anyone who has to walk from one place to another when there’s snow or ice around. Walkways, parking lots and working surfaces can become an ice rink in winter months.
Possible consequences of taking a fall include:
Any workplace should make an concerted effort to stop ice build-up on any surfaces which might be walked or worked on.
TO AVOID SLIPS, TRIPS & FALLS:
With winter comes reduced daylight hours and the increased likelihood of dark, wet, windy, and potentially foggy weather conditions. This is the recipe for poor visibility and unfortunately increases the risk of outdoor workers being hit by moving vehicles or equipment.
Fortunately, visibility of the individual can be drastically improved with the use of high-visibility clothing.
Given away by the name, high visibility garments are designed to increase visibility, whether it be in daylight, low-light or night-time environments. The best hi-vis products combine fluorescent material with bands or strips of a reflective material sewn on. The two materials react differently to sunlight and artificial light respectively, creating maximum visibility.
TO AVOID ACCIDENTS IN POOR VISIBILITY: Full body high-visibility clothing is recommended in winter months so drivers of approaching vehicles can see the wearer more easily.
In high risk places, you may want to consider fully maximising the visibility of outdoor workers. JSP sell helmets EVO2 and EVO3 that are compatible with a visilite helmet light and reflective stickers.
Additionally, suitable signs and traffic management procedures to highlight obstacles and prevent accidents are highly advised in the dark winter months.
*Remember to keep your eyes peeled for the CE kite mark and certification to EN ISO 20471 when purchasing high-visibility gear.*
Keeping Your Workers Safe In Low Visibility EnvironmentsVIEW OUR FULL RANGE HERE!
One of the previous risks/dangers were slips and trips. Unfortunately, even the very act of removing the snow and ice is common cause of injuries during cold weather.
Snow removal injuries include:
When shovelling snow, here are the precautions to take:
This is a painful condition which develops when the feet sustain long exposure to cold, damp conditions (such a mud or water in winter).
Symptoms of trench foot include:
If you or a colleague show signs of trench foot, you should seek medical help.
These quick initial first aid actions should also help:
TO AVOID: Keep warm and dry! Avoid working in water or mud where possible. If this isn’t an option wear waterproof boots that fit well (not too loose that the cold and wet gets in, not too tight that it restricts circulation), with thick wool socks underneath. If it feels as if the damp and cold is getting to your feet still, replace the socks with dry ones and massage the feet to improve circulation.
Not necessarily associated with winter, but its’s actually a major problem. This is because during cold weather, the body’s thirst sensation is reduced by around 40% and the brain doesn’t signal the kidneys to retain water.
Someone with 3% dehydration has a delayed reaction time equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.08 (that’s the cap of the drink drive limit)!
As such, it is a particularly concern for workers in dangerous environments (e.g. using heavy machinery, power tools or working at height) as there is much greater chances of them making dangerous mistakes or not reacting intelligently in situations whilst being dehydrated.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
Fortunately, the solution is very simple! Drink lots of water and warm liquids such as soup and tea.
When the sun finally comes out in the winter, it can unfortunately be a hazard as it has a tendency to glare off snow or very wet roads/surfaces.
This can both damage your eyes, and also be very dangerous if you’re driving as it can seriously reduce your ability to see the road ahead and plan for any changes in direction.
Due to these risks, eye protection such as sunglasses are highly recommended during the winter months when there is snow.
& The Art of Layering
It is not sufficient to wear the same Personal Protective Equipment in the winter that you’ve worn in the summer. It won’t be fit to protect against low temperatures and wind chill, which can cause huge drops in total body heat for outside workers in the winter.
To combat this, you should be kitted out with protective workwear that has several layers to keep you warm and safe. This is called a layering system.
Experts recommend you should wear several (at least three) layers of loose-fitting clothing in extreme cold conditions. Tight clothing actually reduces blood circulation which will have negative impact of blood circulating to your extremities.
Each layer has a different purpose and helps protect you from the cold and wind. Read on to find our how you can stay safe and warm this winter.
So What’s Each Layer For?
1) Wicking Layer
2) Light Insulating Layer
3) Heavy Insulating Layer
Thermal Clothing: Fleeces
Swift360 Range Of Fleeces For Layers 2 & 3 VIEW HERE
4) Windproof/Waterproof Layer
Layering also applies to the head, hands and feet! In fact, as these are the extremities of the body, they are the first to be effected by the cold.
Face masks or balaclavas can be layered underneath a hat or a helmet to help reduce heat loss and protect your face from frostbite.
Available on Swift360 RetailVIEW HERE
Most PPE suppliers should offer a range of cold weather safety gloves. These are usually thermal lined with water-resistant properties. Look out for the EN511 standard as this will indicate which gloves are made to protect against cold.
Or if your job role requires a fairly specific glove , there is the option to put a thermal liner underneath your standard glove, which allows you to continue to carry out your task as normal, whilst keeping the hands insulated and warm.
Waterproof footwear is a must during the winter months. Additionally, they should incorporate insulating and thermal features to keep your feet warm in low temperatures.
Socks are also important! A two-layer sock system is recommended for most winter work. For example, you could wear a thin polypropylene sock with a wool sock over the top. This will allow moisture to be wicked away from your feet and the wool will stay warm even if wet.
If two socks aren’t for you, then a single pair of loose-fitting wool and/or synthetic material socks should work a treat. Just remember if your feet begin to feel cold or damp, replace your socks with dry ones, or find a better insulating option!
In conclusion, working in winter conditions has a number of challenges. However, there are actions you can take to manage and reduce the risks to ensure safety of outdoor workers.
Ways of protect yourself and colleagues from the risks of working in the cold include:
Original article here: https://www.swift360.co.uk/a-guide-on-how-to-keep-outdoor-workers-safe-this-winter/ – Swift360
Swift360 is a leading PPE and workwear suppliers, supplying workplace safety equipment to medium and large businesses.
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