Understanding Cold Stress and Preventing Cold-Related Injuries

January 29, 2024

  As we work in various environments, addressing the potential risks associated with different weather conditions is crucial. Today, we […]

A large excavator on a snowy construction site at dusk.

 

As we work in various environments, addressing the potential risks associated with different weather conditions is crucial. Today, we want to shed light on a serious condition called cold stress, which occurs when the body struggles to maintain its temperature due to cold temperatures, air movement, humidity and cold water. When these elements converge, they can disrupt the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, leading to potentially hazardous situations for our employees. 

 

Types Of Injuries 

 

Severe cold can result in hypothermia, a condition where the body loses heat faster than it can generate. This gradual process can often go unnoticed until it becomes critical. It is the most severe cold stress injury, as it impairs core body functions, including brain and muscle activity, and can be fatal if left untreated. 

 

Frostbite, the second most severe cold stress injury, occurs when tissue temperature falls below freezing. It typically affects body parts like the face, ears, fingers and toes. Frostbite can cause severe damage to blood vessels and impair blood circulation, leading to potential tissue loss and long-term complications. 

 

Effects Of Cold Stress On Performance 

 

Working in icy conditions can significantly affect manual and mental performance. Lower temperatures reduce finger sensitivity and dexterity, impairing the performance of both manual and complex cognitive tasks. Cold stress weakens muscles, stiffens joints and increases the likelihood of incidents on the job. 

 

Cold Stress Prevention 

 

To mitigate the risks of cold stress, we recommend the following preventive measures: 

  • Assess weather conditions before heading out to the work site.  
  • Wear layered, dry and insulated clothing with windproof and waterproof outer shells. Cover all exposed skin whenever possible. 
  • Avoid direct contact of bare skin with cold surfaces, particularly metal objects. 
  • Take warm-up breaks in heated shelters to allow the body to recover. 
  • Stay hydrated with warm, sweet drinks to maintain body temperature. 
  • Keep the body moving, but avoid heavy work that may lead to excessive perspiration. 
  • Avoid prolonged standing or sitting outside in the cold. 

 

Responding To Cold Stress 

 

If someone exhibits signs of cold stress, it is crucial to act promptly. Our employees know to move the affected individual to a warm area, encourage continuous body movement and replace wet clothes with dry ones or blankets. Warm (not hot) sweet drinks will be provided to aid in raising the body’s temperature. In case of suspected hypothermia or extreme frostbite, our employees will call 911 immediately for professional medical assistance. 

 

We understand the gravity of cold stress and its potential impact on our employee’s health and safety. By being aware of the contributing factors, recognizing the signs of cold stress injuries and following preventive measures, we can create a safer working environment even in cold conditions. FWS prioritizes the well-being of every employee and is committed to providing a safe and supportive workplace. If you want to join a company that values your safety and offers growth opportunities, consider joining our team. Together, we can work towards creating a culture of safety and excellence.  

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