Although many people claim they would love to work outdoors; in extreme temperatures, working outside is no walk in the park. This time of year, frigid temperatures can lead to hypothermia. Here’s more information about how to dress on cold weather work sites.
Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature (below 95° F). Such an extreme drop in body temperature means that your heart, nervous system, and other organs fail to work the way they should. If untreated, hypothermia can lead to heart and respiratory failure and even death.
One of the best ways for construction workers to protect themselves while working outdoors is to wear the proper clothing. Protective clothing is necessary when construction workers will be working outside, especially if the temperature is at or below 4° F.
By wearing proper clothing, the possibility of excess sweating is reduced. Here are some important tips on how to dress in cold conditions:
- Multiple layers should be worn.
- The inner layer should provide insulation and repel moisture from the skin.
- Thermal underwear made of polyester is preferable.
- Avoid cotton in general since it gets damp easily.
- External layers must be waterproof.
- Gloves should be used unless the temperature drops to below -17° F, then mittens should be worn.
- A wool cap or liner under hard hats is important to reduce excessive heat loss.
- If working involves feet being in any type of water, waterproof boots must be worn.
- It is a good idea to wear one or two pairs of thick socks. It also is important to have extra socks available since socks can become damp over the course of a day.
No matter how carefully construction workers dress and prepare for the cold weather, hypothermia can still occur. That is why it is so important that all workers receive training to recognize the signs of hypothermia. These symptoms include shivering, hyperventilation, numbness and lack of coordination, and loss of cognition. Advanced symptoms can occur after a few minutes or a few hours and include the cessation of shivering, cardiac arrest, unconsciousness, and finally, organ failure and death.
If a construction worker shows symptoms of hypothermia it is important to call 911 and if at all possible take the person slowly and carefully indoors. Jarring movements should be avoided since they can trigger irregular heartbeats. Wet clothing should be carefully removed and the individual should be covered in layers of warm blankets until emergency crews arrive.