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Safety Blog

Product Solutions: Controlling Cold Weather Exposure

posted by Todd Jenkins, CHST October 2016

Borrowing from author George R. R. Martin and the popular HBO series A Game of Thrones, “winter is coming”. With the cold weather comes a new set of hazards on construction projects. Exposure to cold or freezing weather for prolonged periods of time can be fatal. Some of the danger signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue and confused behavior. Train people working in construction in the winter months to recognize these signs.

PPE is an important element in preventing exposure. Wearing layers can help keep in body heat. When wearing layers try to keep clothes loose, tight clothing can limit movement and decreases the insulating effect of the layers. When the temperatures really start to fall a well-insulated coat or jacket is often necessary as a top layer. The top layer should be water proof when working outdoors.

A pair of insulated and or water proof boots are also necessary when working outside. Keeping dry in cold weather will help you stay warm. Insulated gloves keep hands warm when temperatures approach freezing. Look for gloves that offer some manual dexterity. About 50% of body heat is lost through the head. Most projects require 100% hardhats, to prevent heat loss consider a hardhat liner. A full face mask or Balaclava can help hold in heat as well.

Stay on top of the weather. Installing an accurate weather app is a good way to do this. The Weather Channel offers a free iPhone and Android app. There are other apps on the market that offer really good services, search the app store or market place. Another resource for staying up on current weather events is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service

Finally, OSHA, ANSI and ISO offer cold weather recourses as well. ANSI/ISEA 201-2012, the American National Standard for Classification of Insulating Apparel Use in Cold Work Environments, establishes classifications for insulating clothing. The ISO standard 15743:2008, “Ergonomics of the Thermal Environment — Cold Workplaces — Risk Assessment and Management,” offers control steps for assessment or cold weather risks. OSHA's Cold Stress Card provides a reference guide for people who work in construction.

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