Cold Weather Hazards and How To Avoid Them
Winter is often a welcome change in Australia after our long, hot summers. With the southern states such as Tasmania, Victoria, SA, ACT and parts of NSW often experiencing freezing overnight temperatures – especially during winter, workers may face cold and possibly slippery conditions on work sites.
Working outdoors is an inevitable part of the job for many people across the country. And when the temperatures drop, it is important that workers prepare for the ‘cold snap’.
Stay Warm In Winter Workwear
During the winter, dressing in layers is critical. Pay special attention to protecting feet, hands, face, and head. Up to 40 percent of body heat can be lost when the head is exposed. Wearing insulated foot gear to protect against cold and dampness will provide you with extra protection and warmth. It may also be worth keeping a change of clothing available in case work garments become wet.
Being exposed to prolong periods of bleak weather can lead to something called cold stress that can wreak havoc on your health. Knowing the different types of cold stress and health risks associated with winter conditions is key to getting through a brutal season.
Major risk factors for cold-related stress include the following:
- Wearing inadequate or wet clothing increases the effects of cold on the body
- Taking certain drugs or medications inhibit the body’s response to the cold and impair judgment
- Having a cold or certain disease may make a person more susceptible to the winter conditions.
Falls are one of the most common accidents and they can happen all year round. However, winter weather increases the risk of falls due to slippery surfaces. When surfaces become cold, ice can accumulate on scaffolding, ladders, walkways, stairs and work platforms. If these areas are not treated correctly, they can cause workers to slip and fall, sometimes from height, causing severe injuries.
Prep Your Machinery for the Winter
Your equipment is everything on the job. When it’s not working, you’re not working. During the winter, your machinery can be subject to damage. Check for cracks, cuts, or signs of wear. Repairing damaged spots will help keep them from getting worse or potentially damaging the machine further. Also, make sure windows are free of dirt. Dirt can cause an excess of ice build-up and damage the integrity of your windshields and windows.
Staying Safe in Cold Weather:
Keep updated with weather reports, giving enough time to carry out any procedures and ensure you stay safe.
Such measures could include:
- Shielding any areas that could be worst hit by the weather.
- Taking a break in a warm area.
- Scheduling outside work to be carried out in shorter durations if possible.
- Wearing PPE is the most significant precaution to reducing cold stress.
- Drink plenty of fluids, preferably warm, sweet beverages.
- Increase caloric intake when working in cold environments. Workers in cold environments who wear heavy, protective clothing expend more heat and so require 10-15 percent more calories.
- Avoid the cold if you are becoming exhausted or immobilised. These conditions can accelerate the effects of winter weather.
For more information check out Job Safe for more safety tips on keeping safe in this winter.