Winter in Canada can pose an Occupational Health and Safety risk for employees. Serious injuries and illness can arise from these frigid temperatures. Employees who work outside are especially vulnerable along with older persons and those with predisposed health conditions.
It is important for employees and employers to be aware of the following conditions caused by expose to the winter conditions:
• Frost Bite. Frost bite refers to freezing in deep layers of the skin and tissue. Symptoms include waxy bluish or white skin color, with skin becoming hard and numb. Frost bite
usually affects the fingers, hands, toes, feet, ears, and nose.
• Hypothermia. Hypothermia is a condition in which the body uses up its stored energy and can no longer produce heat. It occurs when normal body temperature (37°C/98.6°F) drops to or
below 35°C (95°F), often after prolonged exposure to cold temperature. Symptoms include fatigue or drowsiness, uncontrolled shivering, cool bluish skin, slurred speech, clumsy
movements, and irritable, irrational or confused behavior.
• Trench Foot. Trench foot is an injury of the feet resulting from prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. Symptoms include reddening of the skin, numbness, leg cramps, swelling, tingling pain and blisters or ulcers.
• Chilblains. Chilblains are ulcers formed by damaged small blood vessels in the skin, caused by the repeated exposure of skin to temperatures just above freezing to as high as 15°C (60)°F. Symptoms include redness, itching, inflammation, and possible blistering.
What can you to prevent this risk?
1. Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that lead to potential cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
2. Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses/injuries and what to do to help.
3. Train your workforce about cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
4. Select proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions. Layer clothing to adjust to changing environmental temperatures and for insulation. Carry extra socks, gloves, hats,jacket, blankets, and a change of clothes.
5. Take frequent short breaks in warm dry shelters to allow the body to warm up.
6. Perform work during the warmest part of the day.
7. Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
8. Use the buddy system (work in pairs).
9. Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks). Avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
10. Eat warm, high-calorie foods like hot pasta dishes.