Northern Safety & Industrial

Staying Safe from Frostbite and Hypothermia

Cold and windy weather is an important factor in how we work outdoors in the winter months. Exposure to low temperatures is dangerous, and it’s crucial that supervisors ensure that their employees are properly prepared.

Each year in the US, there are around 1,300 fatalities due to cold exposure. Employees not only need insulated, waterproof work boots, warm work gloves, and protective clothing, but also know how to work safely outdoors.

The most common cold-related health problems are frostbite and hypothermia. As temperatures drop, it’s important to know the symptoms and how to treat them.

• Symptoms of frostbite include tingling and stinging sensations that are quickly followed by numbness

• Frostbite can be identified by bluish or pale, waxy skin, which results from slowed blood flow

• The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that frostbite victims be immediately moved indoors

• Remove any wet clothing the affected person might be wearing

• Affected body parts should be placed in warm (but not hot) water

• Massaging and rubbing frostbitten body parts is not recommended

• This condition results from the body's temperature dropping so low that it can no longer regulate itself

• Symptoms include slow movement, confusion, and loss of coordination

• According to the CDC, workers afflicted with hypothermia should be brought quickly and carefully into a warm area immediately

• Immediately remove any articles of wet clothing

• Warm the center of the person’s body—chest, neck, head, and groin—with dry blankets, clothes, or towels

• Warm beverages may help if the person is conscious

The best defenses for frostbite and hypothermia are to dress warmly and take frequent breaks from the cold. Employers should allow workers to step inside or get warm near a heat source before returning to work in cold-weather conditions.

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