‘Tis (always) the Season to Protect Your Employees

While the weather outside might be getting a bit frightful with winter closing in on the northern hemisphere and summer’s relentless heat gripping the southern hemisphere, most of us can’t just go home and wait it out.  Whether it’s cold and snowy or it’s hot and humid, your employees need to be prepared for all sorts of extreme conditions with the proper PPE and training to identify the risks of frostbite, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

Warning Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms can be subtle, so it’s important that employees pay attention to their own bodies as well as keep an eye on their co-workers for signs and symptoms of these conditions and take immediate action to prevent serious complications.

Cold Weather Conditions

As core body temperature decreases, muscular and cerebral functions become impaired. Hypothermia occurs most often when someone is exposed to cold and/or wet conditions, which makes working outdoors during the winter months quite dangerous. Frostbite, on the other hand, is an injury caused by freezing the skin and underlying tissue. The first signs of frostbite may be missed or ignored, but without proper treatment, people can lose appendages or develop blood clots. Frostbite typically occurs when weather conditions are cold (below freezing) and windy. It also usually affects the fingers, toes, nose, and ears, cheeks, and chin. Just like with hypothermia, dressing in layers and taking frequent breaks indoors where there’s heat are the best ways to prevent injury.

Frostbite

  • Very cold skin
  • Redness of the skin
  • Numbness
  • Hard, pale skin 

Hypothermia

As body temperature decreases, the severity of hypothermia symptoms increase. If not properly treated in a timely manner, death can occur. Here are signs and symptoms you should watch out for:

  • Mild Hypothermia (98.6°F-95°F, 37°C-35°C)
    • Shivering begins
    • Cold sensation
    • Skin numbness
    • Goosebumps
    • Lack of hand coordination
  • Moderate Hypothermia (94°F-90°F, 34°C-32°C)
    • Intense/violent shivering
    • General/gross lack of muscular coordination
    • Slow or stumbling pace
    • Mild confusion/mental sluggishness/amnesia
    • Pale skin
    • Difficulty speaking
  • Severe Hypothermia (89°F-78°F, 31°C-25°C)
    • Shivering stops
    • Muscular stiffness/rigidity sets in and worsens as body temperature decreases
    • Extreme confusion or incoherence
    • Irrational behavior
    • Inability to stand
    • Skin appears blue and/or puffy/icy to the touch  
    • Pulse and respiration decrease/erratic
    • Dilation of pupils
    • Unconsciousness
    • Pulmonary edema, cardiac and respiratory failure

Hot Weather Conditions

As the body becomes unable to cool itself down, your body temperature will rise, which can damage your brain or other vital organs if it gets too high. In severe cases of heatstroke, this can lead to multi-organ system failure and death. Here are the key warning signs that someone may be suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke:

Heat Exhaustion

  • Muscle cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting

If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke, which is life-threatening.

Heat Stroke

  • Body temperature greater than 103°F (39.4°C)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

How Cority Helps

Safety Managers can leverage Cority’s risk management and job hazard assessment module to identify weather-related risks and hazards and develop countermeasures to ensure employees are working safely regardless of the weather conditions. Also, our inspections solution enables Safety Managers to track behavior-based safety to ensure that employees are properly prepared to do their jobs safely based on weather conditions. Learn more at cority.com or contact your Account Manager to get more information on our health and safety solutions.  

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