In cold environments, it is important for employers to take steps to protect their workers. This includes providing warm clothing and shelter, and ensuring that workers are aware of the dangers of working in cold weather. Employers should also take steps to prevent workers from becoming dehydrated or developing hypothermia.
Repeated exposure to very cold temperatures can be bad for your health – especially if you don’t have the clothing you need to cope with the chill. If you’re working outdoors during winter, then you’re at risk. But even if you’re working indoors in partially-constructed buildings or those which lack central heating, you stand at risk of developing problems in the longterm.
Low temperatures can lead to numbness in the extremities, increased tiredness, and increased risk of accidents and muscular injuries.In extreme cases, it can lead to frostbite. Those working outdoors are at even greater risk, thanks to wind chill.
If you’re in this position, then there are several ways you can cope with the problem.
The most obvious step is to wrap up warm in the right workwear. This might mean wearing multiple layers, but more often it means protecting your fingers and toes with gloves and thicker socks. If you’re doing intricate work with your hands, then you might elect to wear fingerless gloves.
Thermal undergarments might afford you the flexibility to work without being encumbered by a big, thick coat. Warm clothing isn’t typically considered an item of personal protective equipment – but it meets the criteria. It’s just as important to protect yourself against the cold as it is to protect yourself against harmful pathogens, chemical spillages and saw blades.
If your workers understand the dangers to which they’re being exposed, they’ll be much more likely to take precautions, and therefore much more likely to avoid being laid off with cold-related health issues. Education can come in several different forms. You might hang posters around the workplace; you might enrol everyone on a short course; you might simply pass out verbal instructions. In many cases, a combination of all three strategies will yield desirable results.
When workers can recognise the early symptoms of cold stress, they might report the problem. This being the case, make sure that the culture is such that these reports are taken seriously and acted on.
Workers should ideally be provided with a warm place to take their rest breaks. This might be something as simple as a portacabin, kept on site. Working according to a Pomodoro system will help workers to work in short, intense bursts, with short, effective breaks in between. They might also be provided with hot drinks, which will keep them warm for longer periods. Rest breaks should be short and frequent rather than long and rare.
Delaying the Work
Does the job really need to be done in cold conditions? In some cases, the schedule might not permit any delay. In other cases, workers might be re-allocated elsewhere without any significant loss in productivity.