The weather this winter in the Wichita area has been, in my opinion, fairly mild. Oh, we’ve spent a number of days with temps well below freezing and had a few more with temps in the single digits. We’ve had some strong northern winds, as well as some freezing rain, sleet, ice and snow. But all in all, I feel we’ve missed out on the worst that winter can bring. Still, winter isn’t over yet, and since it has been so mild, we may need to be reminded about the possible health effects being out in the cold and wet can bring. We’ve talked about Heat Stress in the summertime, but did you know that Cold Stress is also a hazard we need to be aware of? Cold Stress can lead to hypothermia, a potentially deadly condition. Typical symptoms can range from shivering all the way up to a loss of consciousness and death. To remain safe, we’ll need to be able to identify and then mitigate the risks. Following are some of the factors that can lead to cold stress.
Whenever we are cold stressed, we are at greater risk of hypothermia. And think about this, hypothermia begins when our core body temperature nears approximately 95 degrees. (That’s only about 3-4 degrees lower than our normal core temperature folks!) Since hypothermia is usually a gradual process, we may not even realize we are in danger until it’s too late. As simple as it sounds, feeling cold is the most important warning sign to heed. There are 3 stages of hypothermia. Below are the warning signs for each stage.
Obviously then, the very best method of avoiding this potential hazard is to eliminate ever working or being out in a cold and/or wet environment. I’m sure you are way ahead of me here but that would be nearly impossible in our line of work. Still, there are ways for us to significantly reduce the odds we’ll be seriously harmed by cold stress. Here are some things to consider:
As I said before, there will always be tasks that must be done in the cold and/or wet environments – I’m thinking snow and ice removal here – but that certainly doesn’t mean that we should completely ignore any opportunity to lessen the risk. The first step is always awareness. Look at your facilities, your processes and procedures, as well as further training opportunities for you and your team in avoiding cold stress. Stay warm, stay dry and avoid hypothermia related illness.
Have a great week and stay safe!