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Incident Prevention Magazine

Jerry Havens, COSS

3 Safety Considerations for Cold Weather Work

Cold weather safety is a topic that should be discussed at length among utility workers who perform any outdoor job functions. That’s because, as with heat stress, cold stress can be a fatal threat. When you’re exposed to freezing temperatures for long periods of time, you run the risk of losing a dangerous amount of body heat, which, if not corrected immediately, could lead to frostbite, hypothermia and even death. There are a number of things to think about prior to and when working in the cold, and while we won’t talk about all of those things in this month’s Tailgate Topic, we’ll cover three of the most important items: dressing properly, staying hydrated and eating right, and keeping an eye on your co-workers.

1. Dress Properly
The golden rule for winter weather preparation is to dress in layers. One of the biggest problems with working in the cold is getting too warm and sweaty. If it’s a cold and windy day, hypothermia can begin within just a few minutes. So, layering is key. Here are some layering basics:

  • Layer 1 (base layer): Wear a light, long-sleeved base layer close to your skin. Thinner layers wick sweat better and dry faster.
  • Layer 2 (mid-layer): This layer also should be a thin layer. Wool is a good choice; not only is it warm, but it will retain most of its warmth when wet. There are some fantastic flame-resistant wool garments currently on the market.
  • Layer 3 (heat trap): This should be a zippered jacket with a hood – hooded zip-up sweatshirts are most commonly used for this layer.
  • Layer 4 (outer shell): Choose a waterproof but breathable fabric, and make sure the garment is large enough to fit over all of the other layers.
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