Protect yourself from hypothermia and frostbite
If you work outdoors, protect yourself from dangers caused by cold temperatures and wind chill.
- Wear jackets with snug wrists. Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven and wind resistant. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers hold more body heat than cotton.
- Wear several layers of loose clothing. Layering provides better insulation than tight clothes and makes it easier for your body to circulate warm blood to your extremities.
- Protect your feet with waterproof, insulated footwear.
- Wear a hat and cover your ears. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head and will keep your whole body warmer.
- Wear a scarf or knit mask to protect your face.
- Protect your hands with warm gloves or, if feasible for your work, mittens. (Mittens are warmer than gloves.)
Stay dry and take a break
- Wet clothing chills the body rapidly, so be sure to stay dry. Excess perspiration will too, so remove extra layers when you start to feel too warm.
- Move into a warm location during work breaks.
- Bring a thermos of hot liquid.
Have spare clothes on hand
- Have a spare set of warm clothes on hand in case your clothing gets wet. If nothing else, have extra socks and gloves or mittens on hand.
Be prepared for an emergency
- Have an emergency kit handy with a blanket, thermometer and hot packs.
Know the symptoms of cold stress
Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers. Don’t ignore shivering; it’s an important warning that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
Watch for these signs of cold stress
- Hypothermia: Victims of mild hypothermia shiver but are still alert. In moderate to severe hypothermia, victims stop shivering and may show confusion, slurred speech and slow breathing. Without help, they risk unconsciousness and death.
- Frostbite: Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes. Hands and feet are especially susceptible. Symptoms include numbness, hard skin or reddened skin that develops gray and white patches or blisters. Severe frostbite can result in amputation.
- Trench foot: This nonfreezing foot injury is caused by long exposure to wet and cold. Symptoms include redness, swelling, numbness and blisters.
Published Feb 9, 2016