Field employees often face challenges during the winter months. As with any other weather condition, snow and ice present risks to people and machinery. When the temperature drops, workers need to take precautions to stay safe.
That said, here’s some critical information you need to know and viable ways to survive the winter while working outdoors.
The Dangers Of Working In The Cold
The agricultural and construction industries employ the greatest number of people who regularly endure subfreezing temperatures at work. Some individuals have jobs in fields like land management and environmental research and work outdoors throughout the seasons for long periods.
Fieldwork comes with its own unique set of hazards. This is why it’s important that they must adhere strictly to all safety measures. Remember that the best working practices can help you and your co-worker to be safe if you follow them consistently. In addition, employers must provide proper workforce lodging solutions for their employees, where they can rest and seek shelter during severe weather conditions.
Here are some critical risks that employees may experience after working outdoors during the winter months:
- Pain or numbness of the hands and feet.
- Frostbite in extreme temperatures
- Lower body temperature and exhaustion
- Concentration difficulty
- Vibration white finger causing painful numbness and tingling of both the arms and hands
- Aching joints and weakening muscles
- Emphysema, heart issues and blood circulation problems
When Is It Too Cold To Work?
The Health and Safety Work Act 1974 and other related regulations require the employer to guarantee the health and safety of their employees throughout working hours and after they have finished working. Although the rules did not set a minimum or maximum temperature for outdoor employment, employers are nevertheless responsible for their employees’ safety and well-being in all weather conditions.
To a similar extent, the Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations 1992 mandate that employers provide a reasonably safe and healthy workplace for their employees. Staff members are only permitted to go to work when the temperature is less than 10 degrees Celsius for those four months out of the year.
Ways To Keep Employees Safe Outdoors
When it comes to winter safety, employers are responsible for ensuring their staff knows what to wear, particularly if it involves special equipment. Regarding some safety precautions, it will be up to the workers to take the necessary steps.
Employers must first identify the risks of the employees’ occupation, tasks and responsibilities. After determining the risks, your employees must have the proper training to ensure their safety when working on the field and when they are working with others.
Wear Proper Gear And Warm Clothes
Wearing warm clothing during the winter can help keep frostbite away. You can layer up with thin tops and bottoms rather than thick ones. Use a hat, scarf, muffler, gloves, and warm waterproof boots. Choosing clothes made of wool or fleece or a combination of synthetic fibers would be advisable. You can also wear thermal underwear and socks. Of course, if you’re required to wear the proper safety gear while working, you should do so, as this is part of the standard operating procedures.
Stay At Home If Sick
If you’re experiencing heart or respiratory problems, it would be best to consult a medical professional and rest at home. Your health and safety must be a priority. Keep in mind that a slight cold can hinder your performance. Worst case scenario, you can also infect someone at work if you insist on working when you’re sick. So, if you genuinely don’t feel well, call in sick and explain the situation to your employer.
Have A Plan In Case Of Emergencies
Employees travel to work by foot or by vehicle. If you’re driving amid icy cold conditions, always pack a warm blanket and extra clothing in case your car breaks down. If you walk to work, you should leave the house informing anyone where you’re headed and what time you should be expected to return home. Lastly, ensure your phone is fully charged when you bring it with you so that you can call for help in case of an accident.
Avoid Substances When Out In The Cold
The winter weather might aggravate the effects of smoking and drinking on the job. Consequently, consuming alcohol might make concentrating difficult and make you sleepy. It’s worth noting that falling asleep in cold conditions may increase the rate of losing body heat, thus risking you from getting frostbite. On the other hand, smoking can cause blood vessels to constrict, reducing the body’s ability to generate heat efficiently.
Maintaining a healthy diet when working in the cold is essential. It’s good for your health, and it helps you stay warm. Try to have at least one hot meal per day, like soup. In addition, it also helps to take Vitamin D supplements, especially when the sun’s rays are weaker in the winter.
During the winter, extra precautions might be taken to guarantee one’s safety. It’s also vital to remember to keep emergency supplies handy if they work overnights in case of emergencies.
Some sections of the country experience colder winters than others, which can increase the risk of injuries, including frostbite and falls due to slick surfaces. Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility; however, employees must adhere to the standards imposed by their employers. Furthermore, they need to eat well, have an emergency kit, and dress in layers to keep warm and avoid exhaustion. They must also know their rights to be safe at work to ensure they won’t get injured or become sick.