Industrial Winter Safety
Stay safe with these cold weather safety tips for outdoor workers.
Cold Weather Safety Tips
- Wear layered clothing
- Stay hydrated, even when you think you are not sweating
- Take regular breaks
- Wear appropriate footwear
- Understand signs and treatments for frostbite and hypothermia
- Prepare your vehicle for winter driving
- Clear snow and ice from walkways and paths
The leaves are falling and so is the temperature. Winter will be here shortly. While it is beautiful and enchanting, winter can pose some major hazards if you haven’t prepared for it. Failing to recognize and respect the dangers of winter is not recommended.
Whether you are traveling through, working in, or enjoying the weather, the following cold weather safety tips for outdoor workers will ensure your safety and good health:
Wear Layered Clothing
Multiple layers of loose-fitting clothing allow the worker to adjust their comfort level and protection based on the current temperature. Tight fitting clothes reduce blood circulation. Many forget the danger of sunburn when it is cold outside, but it is always important to protect from the sun. Wear a hat, scarf or face covering and always wear waterproof gloves. The goal is to expose as little skin as possible. Also, it is wise to keep a change of clothes with you in case your existing clothes get wet. Being wet can increase the rate of heat loss from the body.
It’s easy to forget the simple importance of hydration when it is cold outside. It’s not like the steamy summer months when we know we are sweating. You still sweat—even in cold temperatures. For optimal performance, keep the body hydrated with water.
Breaks are Good
When the weather is particularly cold and/or windy, regular breaks are important. If possible, take a break inside or under shelter where you can warm up a bit. If it gets very cold, get inside and warm up.
Wear Good Shoes
Wear proper footwear when tackling winter weather. A pair of water resistant and insulated boots with rubber treads is important for industrial winter safety. Slow your pace and shorten your steps when navigating snowy/icy walkways.
Know the Signs
Frostbite and hypothermia can set in unexpectedly. Get inside if you begin to experience either. If a co-worker seems to be manifesting signs of cold stress, help them get help immediately. Be aware of those around you and take care of each other.
Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes.
What to look for:
- White or grayish-yellow skin
- Firm or waxy skin
What to do:
- Go to a warm room/location.
- Soak in warm water.
- Use body heat to warm.
- Do not massage or use a heating pad.
Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.
What to look for:
- Fumbling hands
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
What to do:
- Go to a warm room
- Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin
- Keep dry and stay wrapped up in warm blankets. Do not neglect to cover the head and neck.
Proper Heat Ventilation
If using a non-electric heater, ensure that there is proper ventilation to let gasses like carbon monoxide escape. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector.
- NEVER run generators indoors.
- Open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- NEVER use a gas oven to heat your home.
- If your heat goes out, close off rooms you do not need, dress in layers of lightweight clothing, and wear a cap.
Prepare for Winter Driving
Top off your fluids, drive slowly and allow yourself additional time to travel. Pay attention to changing road conditions.
- Check your tires
- Assess your battery
- Top off your fluids (coolant, wiper fluid, oil, etc)
- Have jumper cables
- Pack a blanket/safety kit for emergencies
You never know when this preparation may save your life or the life of someone else. This website is an excellent resource for winter preparation and survival, ready.gov.
Clear the Path
Make sure that walkways, paths, stairs, and entries are free from snow and ice. Do this as quickly as possible when a winter storm sets in. Slips, trips, and falls will decrease dramatically when the path is clear. Powerblanket offers a NEW method for clearing the path that does not use chemicals or salt, or require you to break your back shoveling. Summerstep industrial snow melting mats use radiant heat technology to melt snow and ice on walkways, stairs and doorways, improving industrial winter safety. Not only does Summerstep melt away the existing ice and snow, but as the storm continues, the path will stay clear as accumulating snow will instantly melt away. Summerstep heated walkway mats can be linked together to match the length you need to ensure safe travels.
Always use proper engineering controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) required by your employer in all work conditions.