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Reduce Accidents This Winter With These Safety Tips

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that around 6,000 Americans lose their lives each year as a result of cold weather. Cold-related injuries and illnesses can afflict a person who has been chilled by low temperatures, brisk winds or wet clothing. Refresh yourself on the first-aid measures to take when a co-worker shows signs of serious cold-related illness.

A Real-Life Case Study
Before beginning work one morning, an agricultural worker in northern Michigan realized his work boots were in pretty rough shape. He also forgot to check the weather for the day, which predicted a few inches of snowfall, and didn’t put on insulated socks.

Around midday he started to experience a strange tingling and itching in his feet and toes. Thinking it was just a symptom of his feet falling asleep because he had been standing on them for longer than usual that day, he let the issue slide until his feet became almost completely numb.

He mentioned the concern to his co-worker, who told his supervisor. His supervisor moved him inside immediately. Another employee helped him soak his feet in a lukewarm water bath for 45 minutes. His supervisor instructed him to throw out his old boots and buy a new, more insulated pair.

The worker’s supervisor realized the worker was experiencing the early signs of frostbite and removed him from the cold weather conditions before he was seriously injured.

When frostbite occurs, there is freezing in the deep layers of the skin and tissue. The skin becomes pale, waxy white, hard and numb. This condition usually affects the fingers, hands, toes, feet, ears and nose. If you suspect that a co-worker has frostbite, you should:

  • Move the person to a warm, dry area and do not leave him or her alone.
  • Remove any wet or tight clothing that may cut off blood flow to the affected area.
  • DO NOT rub the affected skin, as this can cause damage to the skin and tissue.
  • Gently place the affected area in a warm (not hot) water bath. DO NOT pour water directly on the skin.

Here are some tips to protect against frostbite:

  • Dress properly by protecting your hands, feet, nose and ears.
  • Bundle up in warm, layered, loose-fitting clothing.
  • If you are doing activities outside, periodically go inside to warm up.
  • Remember that wet skin and clothing will increase your risk of getting frostbite, so try and keep your skin and clothes as dry as possible.
  • Do not drink alcohol before or during exposure to cold temperatures; your body may not be able to realize that it is getting too cold.
  • Avoid smoking in cold weather. The nicotine affects your blood vessels and increases your chance of developing frostbite.

Keep a close eye on your body; if your skin begins to turn red, it may be an indication that frostbite is developing. Head indoors immediately and get warm.

Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops below 95° F, causing fatigue, drowsiness, uncontrolled shivering, bluish skin, slurred speech, clumsy movements, irritability, and irrational or confused behavior. If you suspect a co-worker is suffering from hypothermia:

  • Move the person to a warm, dry area and do not leave him or her alone.
  • Replace wet clothing with warm, dry clothing or blankets.
  • Have the person drink warm, sweet drinks. DO NOT administer drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Have the person move his or her arms and legs to create muscle heat.

Hypothermia and frostbite are serious conditions. Call for medical assistance if you suspect a co-worker is suffering from either illness. Co-workers who are older or have a predisposed health condition such as heart disease, diabetes or hypertension have an increased risk of falling victim to cold-related illnesses.

Hypothermia and frostbite are serious conditions. Call for medical assistance if you suspect someone is suffering from either illness.

Winter weather hits hard, with biting cold, snow and ice, dangerous flooding, extreme winds, and treacherous fog. Here are some tips to help reduce accidents while clearing snow this winter:

Clearing Snow Safely

Snow removal can be hard on the body—especially when you have to clear a large area of heavy snow with just a shovel. For this reason, you may find yourself opting for a snowblower or snowplow to clear snow at home or at work. We would like to remind you of the proper safety precautions to take to avoid unnecessary injury.

Snowblower Precautions

  • Be aware of where you are aiming the shoot. Rocks and ice can become dangerous missiles if picked up by the blower. Blow snow away from parked cars, people and windows.
  • Never, for any reason, override the automatic shut-off features of the snowblower.
  • Operate the snowblower at a speed no faster than a walk.
  • Turn the machine off and wait until all moving parts have stopped before attempting to clear any blockage.
  • Never use your hands to clear a blockage. Use a long stick to work debris out of the shoot.

Snowplow Precautions

  • When beginning a pass, start moving and then drop the plow blade.
  • Begin to slow down as you approach the end of the pass to avoid slamming full speed into already piled snow.
  • Raise the plow blade before moving into position to make another pass.

Shoveling Precautions

  • Stretch and warm up your muscles with light exercise before you go out.

  • Take it slow.

  • Use the proper equipment. Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength, and appropriate for the job.

  • Try not to lift the snow. By pushing the snow instead of lifting, you can save some strain on your back. When you must lift a pile to relocate it, be sure to bend and lift with your knees.

Whether you are using a snowblower, snowplow  or shovel, your safety and the safety of those around you relies on your willingness to be aware of your surroundings and proceed with caution. It can be tempting to work quickly in order to escape the winter cold; instead, work slowly and deliberately. Take breaks indoors to warm up if necessary.