Stay Ahead of Cold-related Incidents

by Tabah Nez, ACPA Safety Director

As we approach winter, you will need to prepare your employees physically and mentally for inclement weather. They may face a variety of cold-weather hazards, including frostbite, hypothermia, trench foot and hazardous road conditions. All of these conditions are extremely serious, and employers must take measures to prevent them from occurring.

Since operators are always working outside, they need to know the hazards of working in cold weather. Body temperature is normally at 98.6°F and when that drops to 95°, it causes the onset of hypothermia symptoms. It begins with mild symptoms like shivering, and if the body doesn’t seek warmth, this will progress into moderate and severe symptoms (shivering stops; confusion; slurred speech; heart rate/breathing slow; loss of consciousness; death).

Checking local weather and preparing for the day are essential to keeping warm. Staying dry and dressing in layers that are insulated and waterproof are helpful. In addition to wearing a hard hat, safety glasses and a high-vis vest, adding a jacket, gloves, boots and hard hat liner can help in preventing body temperature from dropping. Get plenty of rest: The body works hard to keep warm in cold weather. When available, operators can take breaks in the heated truck cab.

In serious illness situations, call 911. Move the individual to a warmer place to prevent further heat loss. If medical help is more than 30 minutes away, replace wet clothing with dry. Cover the individual with a blanket or heat packs. For frostbite and trench foot, seek medical attention, do not rub or apply heat packs to the affected area.

Winter weather can intensify quickly, so it’s important to have a plan in place for pump trucks that are in route to job sites. Rain, snow and icy road conditions can make a pump operator’s commute stressful.

Employers should check local weather and road conditions for the area and advise employees accordingly. Planning a route and allowing plenty of travel time to get to job sites is highly encouraged.

Additionally, employees should be aware of potential slips and falls when working outside and walking around the work area. Tip: To help with traction, concrete can be sprinkled onto ice or snow that’s on the deck. When you return to the shop, wash it off.

Get the conversation going with employees — the best way to safeguard your people from cold weather threats is to be prepared.