All posts by Julian

Working in cold weather

Working in cold weather

Some workers are required to work outdoors in cold weather for extended periods, for example, construction workers, garbage collectors, police officers and emergency workers, like firefighters, and many others. These workers are inevitably more prone to cold stress.

Working in rain

Figure 1: Emergency worker working in rain

Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature followed by the core body temperature. This may lead to serious health problems and can cause tissue damage and even death in some situations.

The most frequent cold induced illnesses or injuries include:

  • Hypothermia
  • Frostbite
  • Trench Foot

Hypothermia:

Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 37 °C. Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature falls below 35 °C, for example when a person becomes drenched from rain or submersion in cold weather.

Frostbite:

It is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. The lower the temperature, the quicker the frostbite will occur. Frostbite typically affects the extremities, particularly the feet and hands. The symptoms are reddened skin with grey to white patches, numbness and blisters can occur in affected areas. In severe cases, amputation may be required.

Trench foot or Immersion foot:

Trench foot is a painful condition of the feet caused by long immersion in cold water or mud and is marked by blackening and death of surface tissue. It can occur at temperatures up to 15°C if the feet are constantly wet. Non-freezing injury happens since wet feet lose heat 25-times quicker than dry feet. To avoid heat loss, the body constricts the blood vessels to decrease circulation in the feet. Consequently, the skin tissues can die due to a lack of oxygen supply and nutrients and due to the accumulation of toxic products. The symptoms of trench foot include redness of the skin, swelling, numbness and blisters.

Precautions:

If you work outside, you may be at risk of exposure to extreme cold. Your workplace must have measures in place manage the risks to your health and safety cause by exposure to cold weather, including:

  • providing heating, for example cab heaters
  • providing protection, such as a hut or the cabin of a vehicle
  • providing warm and waterproof clothing including eye and face protection, head protection and gloves.
  • enabling workers who are not used to working in cold conditions to acclimatise.Eliminating or reducing exposure to cold is the best protection.

Winter wear

Figure 2: Winter wear for workers

Browse the Personal Protective Equipment from our online store to shield yourself and your workers from the cold weather: https://www.safety-products.com.au/

For more information on working in the cold, please see Safe Work Australia Publication:

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/model-code-practice-managing-work-environment-and-facilities

Slips, trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls 

With the onset of this wet and cold weather, it is definitely a prime time for slips, trips and falls for people of all ages, in all occupations, indoors and outdoors.

Slips are the result of too little friction or a lack of traction between the footwear and the floor surface.

A trip is the result of a foot striking or colliding with an object, which causes a loss in balance, and usually a fall.

slips-trips

Figure 1: Slip, trip and fall

Each year slips, trips and falls result in thousands of preventable injuries. The most common ones are musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bruises, fractures and dislocations, but more serious injuries can also happen.

Over the 12 years between 2003–15, slips, trips or falls:

  • caused the death of 386 workers
  • led to 23% of serious claims
  • were caused by environmental factors 56% of the time.

Environmental factors can include slippery surfaces following rain or spills, poorly designed or maintained walkways, poor lighting on stairs and walkways and trip hazards for example from poorly stored materials.

HOW TO MAKE SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENTS?

You should consider the design of floors, stairs, lighting, drainage and storage.

Work procedures can also impact on the incidence of slips and trips. For example, develop procedures that avoid the build-up of rubbish throughout a production process.

When selecting and buying footwear, think about whether it has good slip resistance properties along with any other safety features you need. For example:

  • In wet conditions the shoe sole tread pattern should be deep enough to help penetrate the surface water and make direct contact with the floor.
  • In dry conditions the shoe sole tread pattern should be a flat bottom construction that grips the floor with maximum contact area.
  • Urethane and rubber soles are more effective than vinyl and leather soles for slip resistance. Sole materials that have tiny cell like features will be slip resistant.

A risk analysis and strong policy around what is acceptable footwear for the job being performed will help prevent slips, trips and falls

For more information on slips, trips and falls, see Safe Work Australia Publication: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/slips_and_trips_fact_sheet.pdf