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Keep employees warm and safe when working in the cold

Within a few months, the temperature will begin to dip and outdoor work will become much harder to perform. In many parts of the country, workers will have to adapt to doing their jobs in the cold. It is important to understand how staff members can avoid hypothermia and frostbite, as well as exhaustion from exerting too much effort when the temperature is too low. Here are some guidelines from OSHA that managers and supervisors should use to direct their workforces appropriately this fall and winter.

One of the most important things that employers can do for their workers is to use sound judgment about the weather. Like school and many other jobs, labor-oriented tasks should be canceled if it's too cold outside. Despite the importance of certain projects, temperatures well below freezing should call for work to be halted.

Workers need to be required to wear the right type of clothing and/or safety products in the winter. This means at least three layers of clothing when the thermometer falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, if not more. Employers should provide a guide to help workers purchase appropriate clothes if they do not already offer winter jackets and extra layers for workers. It is also a good idea for companies to supply workers with waterproof clothing if they're working in sleet or freezing rain.

Whenever possible, outdoor work should be scheduled for the warmest part of the day. This means that if certain tasks can be done between 10 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon, they should receive the lion's share of effort between those times. Work that can be done from a car, truck, or indoors is better saved for the early morning and evening.

Breaks for food and drink are invaluable to cold-weather work. The human body needs more energy to accomplish the same physical tasks in the cold as it would in warm weather because extra calories are required to raise the body's temperature. Employers should provide frequent breaks, allowing workers to recharge their energy and have ample time to eat hot meals heavy in carbohydrates. Warm drinks with plenty of sugar are also helpful, but caffeine should be avoided. As a diuretic, caffeine will cause water to pass through workers' systems faster and will cause them to dehydrate even more in the cold.  

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