During the winter months, it’s important to stay warm when working outdoors in cold temperatures to retain body heat and avoid hypothermia and frostbite. The following best practices will help you and your team operating in the winter.
Prepare your equipment
Check, and if necessary replace, air filters in the cab to improve your heater’s effectiveness. Also, make sure that snow or ice isn’t blocking any airways.
Cover the radiator intake to help the machine warm up faster. Don’t operate the machine until the engine has reached operating temperature to reduce the chance of damage.
Plug in engine block heaters at night for each machine to avoid problems and service calls.
Wear the proper gear
Thermal insulated coveralls are essential for anyone who is working outdoors in the winter. They are designed to maximize body heat containment while allowing a wide range of motion. If coveralls aren’t an option, look for thermal long underwear to help keep in body heat.
Worn under a hard hat, these liners keep your head and neck warm. Fleece lined fabric is the most popular choice because of its comfort and insulation levels. Keep spares on hand and remember to wash them regularly for the best results.
Glove selection is crucial to balancing warmth with dexterity. Make sure the fabric and textures are suited to your job and consider gloves that work with a liner. They may be a little oversized, but they allow increased protection.
Thermal Socks and Insulated Boots
Standing or walking on cold surfaces for long periods of time can quickly decrease your core body temperature. Double layer socks and boots designed for cold weather can make a big difference.
Optimize the environment
Where possible, stand on mats, plywood or other barriers if you’ll be working outside for long periods of time. These materials act as installation to help decrease the amount of body heat lost to the cold ground.
There are many types and sizes of heaters that help keep workers warm. Rent or purchase heaters for outdoor projects to increase worker productivity.
Watch for these symptoms
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms of over exposure.
- The body stops shivering
- Breath becomes shallow and slow
- Victim will suffer from memory loss and confusion as well as exhaustion
- Speech may become mumbled and slurred
- Extremities will loose coordination causing stumbling and fumbling
- Pulse will slow down and become weak
- In severe cases unconsciousness can follow without breathing or a pulse
Initial signs of frostbitten skin include
- A change in color to white, grey-yellow, or dark and black
- A texture that is hard and waxy feeling
During rewarming and healing the skin may
- Swell and become painful
- Burn and itch
Skin damaged by frostbite can suffer from long-term numbness. In some cases, the tissue dies requiring removal of the body part.