FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 30, 2017) -- When workers do jobs in the cold, there are many risks. Some cold weather dangers are obvious, but others are harder to see. Sometimes even when it doesn’t feel very cold, a cold-related illness or injury can still be harmful.
Military members and other civilians who must be in the cold should wear warm clothing that is right for the weather. Wear several layers of loose clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
Wear gloves to protect the hands, and a hat and/or hood to protect the head. In wet conditions, wear waterproof shoes that have good traction. Make sure that cold weather gear does not restrict movement or block eyesight.
Be prepared by wearing warm clothing.
Be aware that cold temperatures can lead to illness and injury.
Be prepared for working in the cold, even if the cold temperatures are not extreme. It’s obvious that bitter cold and howling winds are harmful, but cold-related illness and injuries can occur it is as warm as 60 F.
One of the biggest dangers from working in the cold can be the hardest to recognize. Hypothermia happens when your body temperature drops below 95 F. Mild hypothermia can make you feel confused, and you may not realize anything is wrong until it is too late. Being too cold can also cloud one’s judgment and lead to mistakes while you work, and mistakes can sometimes be deadly.
Early symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, feeling tired, loss of coordination and confusion. As a body loses more heat, the shivering will stop, and one’s skin may turn blue. Eye pupils will dilate, the pulse and breathing will slow, and a person will lose consciousness.
Avoid becoming too cold by wearing appropriate clothing for the cold weather.
Many parts of the body are prone to frostbite, including your fingers, toes, nose and ears. Frostbite happens when a part of the body freezes, and damaging the tissue. If the tissue can’t be saved, the body part may need to be removed to prevent even worse health problems. Warning signs of frostbite include numbness or tingling, stinging, or pain on or near the affected body part. Avoid frostbite by being aware of the weather and wearing protective clothing such as warm gloves, insulated shoes, and warm hats. The colder it is, the faster frostbite can set in, so don’t stay in the cold any longer than needed.
Other Cold Weather Injuries
Trench foot occurs when feet are wet and cold for too long. Moisture causes the feet to lose heat, and this can slow the blood flow and damage tissue. Trench foot can happen when it is as warm as 60 F.
Sometimes cold weather can damage skin and cause chilblains. This problem can cause broken skin, swelling, blisters, redness and itching. It can also happen when it is as warm as 60 F.
Be Ready for the Cold
While working in the cold, always wear clothing that is appropriate for the weather. Remember, prolonged exposures to cold temperatures could lead to poor decisions or cause one to react more slowly than normal. Report to a supervisor if not dressed warmly enough. Pay attention to warning signs and symptoms of hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-related illnesses and injuries.