How Cold is Too Cold? Tips to Protect Outdoor Workers in the Winter

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

The National Weather Service is warning much of the country about the polar vortex, an arctic air mass that is pushing much of the eastern and central U.S. down to record cold temperatures.

During this wave, workers are at increased risk of cold stress. Increased wind speeds can cause the air temperature to feel even colder, further increasing the risk of cold stress of those working outdoors, such as:

  • Snow cleanup crews
  • Construction workers
  • Recreational workers
  • Postal workers
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Miners
  • Baggage handlers
  • Landscapers
  • Support workers for oil and gas operations

When the body is unable to warm itself, cold-related stress may result in tissue damage and possibly death. Four factors contribute to cold stress: cold air temperatures, high velocity air movement, dampness of the air, and contact with cold water or surfaces.

How cold is too cold?

A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Cold air, water and snow all draw heat from the body. The most common problems faced in the cold are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.

wind chill chart

What preventive measures should I take?

Plan for work in cold weather. Wearing appropriate clothing and being aware of how your body is reacting to the cold are important to preventing cold stress. Avoiding alcohol, certain medications and smoking can also help minimize the risk.

Protective Clothing is the most important way to avoid cold stress. The type of fabric even makes a difference. Cotton loses its…

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