With the cold weather here and only getting colder, it is important to remember some safety tips around the workplace for the changing seasons. Below we outline some of the increased risks that come with the winter weather, how to prevent them, and what to do if you suspect them in yourself or a co-worker.
1. Slip and Falls
– although this may seem obvious, slip and falls are still a major cause of workplace accidents in the winter. In Canada over 42,000 workers get injured annually due to fall incidents. With around 17,000 of them resulting in lost-time injuries. With 67% of these being falls “on the same level” (with the remaining 30% being falls from heights). Source It is clear that ice and snow will increase the likelihood of these incidents.
- It is crucial that snow be removed from walkways and areas used by workers, and that ice be treated with some form of anti-slip coverage – whether it be sand, rock salt or something of the sort.
- Non-slip footwear – many workers will have to work with slippery surfaces while out on the job. The right footwear choices can help prevent slipping on icy surfaces, such as work boots with a heavy tread, or even a removable tread can be placed over your footwear for added traction (please ensure your winter footwear meets your workplace standards prior to purchasing)
Protect your body – with the cold temperatures it is imperative that workers wear the appropriate clothing to stay protected. Layering your clothing allows you to remove and add layers as you begin to warm up or cool down. Wool is an excellent material to include in layering as it stays warm even when it gets wet. It is easy for workers to forget the potential dangers of working in cold temperatures when they are working hard, and their body has warmed up from physical labour but Hypothermia and Frostbite are very real dangers.
– caused from a dangerous drop in body temperature. Hypothermia accounts for approximately 8000 deaths per year in Canada “Normal body temperature averages 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. With hypothermia, core temperature drops below 95 degrees. In severe hypothermia, core body temperature can drop to 82 degrees or lower.” Source
- Shivering, one of the first warning signs that your body is getting too cold and you should seek warmer shelter, when shivering becomes violent or stops, cause for worry increases
- Grogginess, inability to pay attention or think clearly
- Slow, shallow breathing leading to little or no breathing as severity increases
- Slow, weak pulse leading to weak, irregular or non-existent pulse
What should you do:
If you suspect yourself or someone is suffering from hypothermia get them to a warmer/dry location as soon as possible and call for emergency help. Keep the person in a horizontal position and warm them with blankets or skin to skin body heat. If they are conscious give them something warm to drink. When hypothermia is severe people can actually appear to be dead so it is important to keep warming them until help arrives! Source
– is caused by the freezing of your skin and the underlying tissues. Source Frostbite most commonly occurs on hands, feet, noses and ears. Frostbite can range in severity but it is never something to be taken lightly. In severe cases nerve damage, blackening of skin and skin infections can occur.
- a prickly burning sensation, leading to numbness
- discolouration of skin – blueish/white or grayish/yellow, hard or waxy-looking skin
- clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
- blistering after rewarming, in severe cases Source
What should you do: (as recommended by the Government of Canada)
Passive warming – move to a warm room, wrap yourself in blankets or reheat your body by skin-to-skin contact with another person
Active warming – this can be done along with passive warming. Add heat directly to the frostbitten area. The idea is to thaw the injured skin as quickly as possible without burning yourself. Thawing frostbitten skin is very painful so the injured skin should be placed in water that is just above body temperature. Do not rub, massage or shake the injured skin because that can cause more damage.
Severe frostbite requires immediate medical attention. While you are waiting for help to arrive begin treating it with passive and active warming. Source
Winter weather brings the fun of many winter activities but also the risk of the injuries listed above. It is important to remember these safety tips while at work and at home this winter. With the proper care taken all three causes of injury can be greatly prevented.
Stay WARM and SAFE this winter season.