As Temperatures Drop, Winter Weather Safety Becomes Key

Most workers are familiar with the dangers associated with prolonged exposure to extreme heat, as a result many workers and safety leaders have plans in place and know how to keep safe. However, as the temperatures drop, especially in the Northeast, developing a winter weather safety plan to combat the dangers associated with exposure to extreme cold become key to keeping you and your team safe and working.

Two-thirds of weather-related deaths attributed to cold

In a 2014 study, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published that during the period 2006 through 2010, about two-thirds of all weather-related deaths were attributed to prolonged exposure to excessive natural cold. The statistic reflects double the number of deaths attributed to exposure to prolonged heat. The CDCs findings further suggest the need for a better understanding and planning for the cold – especially for workers in our industry.

Winter Weather Safety – Start with a Plan

EHS Today recommends that every job site should start their winter-weather safety plan with a job hazard analysis (JHA) to identify the ways in which you can best protect your workers. The JHA should take into account geographic location, type of work environment and duration of work activity exposed to the elements. Once reviewed, safety leaders should perform a PPE assessment to determine if the site meets the requirements of the JHA.

The EHS Today article has some key training points for both safety leaders and workers alike. Among them are:

  • Recognizing the hazards of cold work,
  • Recognizing the first signs and symptoms of cold stress (shivering, discoloration of the skin, etc.)
  • Basic first aid for cold stress with an emphasis on frost bite and hypothermia,
  • Setting up a buddy system for workers to monitor one another,
  • How to properly dress for the cold, and
  • Steps to prevent cold stress including the emphasis of proper clothing/layering and balancing low and high impact work to prevent sweating in the cold.

Keeping everyone safe no matter the weather should be everyone’s top priority. As the temperatures drop and Old Man Winter tries to make life miserable for the unprepared you can feel confident that you and your crew are ready to deal with the elements. Be sure to check out the full article on EHS Today for detailed tips on to create or refine your winter weather safety plan.