Frigid temperatures and inclement weather often keep many people indoors as much as possible.
Construction laborers are not among them.
Danger Signs of Cold Stress
- Uncontrolled shivering
- Slurred speech
- Clumsy movements
Move the victim to a warm area, cover with dry clothes and blankets and give a warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drink.
For severe cases, implement all of the above measures and call 9-1-1.
Depending on where they live, this time of year finds many construction laborers not only working outside in the cold, but also working in freezing rain, sleet and snow. Prolonged exposure to any of these elements can lead to cold stress and serious health conditions including hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot.
“Injuries due to cold weather are painful and, in some instances, fatal,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “It is essential to implement measures that keep workers safe from the elements. These precautions will also help protect business.”
Employers can protect workers by:
- Recognizing the environmental and workplace conditions that may be dangerous
- Learning the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to help workers
- Training workers about cold-induced illnesses and injuries
- Making sure that workers in extreme conditions take frequent breaks in warm dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up
- Scheduling work for the warmest part of the day
Workers can protect themselves by:
- Wearing proper, insulated clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions including:
- Layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions
- Hats, insulated gloves and footwear
- Keeping a change of dry clothing on hand
- Using the buddy system so that one worker can recognize danger signs of cold stress
- Drinking warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) and avoiding drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas, hot chocolate) or alcohol
- Eating warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes
It is also important to be aware that certain medications – antidepressants, tranquilizers, and drugs that treat heart disease – may make you more susceptible to cold stress. Being in poor physical condition or suffering from diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses can also increase risk for developing complications from cold stress.
Cold Stress in Construction, a health alert, and Cold Stress Education for Laborers, a 28-page instructor’s guide, provide additional information for what can be done to protect against cold stress. Order them through the LHSFNA’s online Publications Catalogue.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]