As the country is currently in the grip of the British winter, construction workers up and down the country are looking into their wardrobes on the hunt for their warm weather gear hidden behind their Bermuda Shorts. Even the bravest of workers are going to struggle to stay warm if we see a return of the Beast from the East.
Working outside increases exposure to the wind and rain, the risk of receiving a cold injury is increased. Cold Injuries can have a serious impact on employee health.
It is important to identify cold-related injuries quickly. This can be done by spotting the key symptoms early. For example, the symptoms of Hypothermia include:
- Cold and Pale Skin
- Slurred Speech
- Fast Breathing
Acting fast is key and first aid can include
- Moving the injured person indoors
- Removing wet clothing and getting them dry
- Wrap in Blankets
- Give them a warm non-alcoholic drink, this uses less energy to digest.
- Give them energy food that contains sugar, such as a chocolate bar
However, being proactive is better than being reactive. The weather conditions should be considered when creating a safe system of work. Hazards such as Cold Injuries, accidents caused by loss of mobility in limbs and an increased chance of Vibration injuries.
Things that affect the comfort of workers include:
- Air Temperature
- Air Velocity or Wind Speed
- Metabolic Rate of individuals (How much energy is used when maintaining a living state)
- Duration of exposure
Therefore, control measures such as the below should be implemented:
- Ensure the personal protective equipment issued and weather monitoring instruments are
- Provide mobile facilities for warming up, and encourage the drinking of warm fluids such as soup or hot drinks
- Introduce more frequent rest breaks
- Consider delaying the work due to poor weather conditions – can it be undertaken at warmer times of the year without compromising on safety?
- Educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of cold stress.
It is key to ensure that any warm weather gear does not interfere with PPE. For example, wearing a woolly hat or having the hood of a hoodie underneath your hard hat may reduce the effectiveness of the hard hat in keeping you safe. There are solutions available that work well with PPE such as Hard Hat Liners that are designed to keep you warm and not reduce the effectiveness of the Hard Hat.
So, remember to dress appropriately, have the correct welfare facilities in place and stay warm this winter.