Protecting Workers In Extreme Conditions

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s2Staff Report

The Greater Milford Area has already seen some unusual, extreme weather this year. In the first three weeks of January alone, residents have encountered Winter Storms Hercules and Janus which have brought snow and frigid temperature, leading to one Limited State of Emergency and three days of school closings. With more winter weather to come in the upcoming months, experts at Bayhealth Medical Center have offered important information to keep individuals safe and protected while at work.

Workers who are exposed to extreme cold or work in cold environments may be at risk of cold stress. Extremely cold or wet weather is a dangerous situation that can cause occupational illness and injuries such as hypothermia and frostbite. Encouraging individuals to wear appropriate clothing including several layers of loose clothing for insulation, officials at Bayhealth stress that tight clothing reduces blood circulation to the extremities and may restrict movement resulting in a hazardous situation.Individuals should protect the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold or wet weather, choose boots that are waterproof and insulated and wear a hat to reduce the loss of body heat.

In extreme weather cases, hypothermia and frostbite are possible and serious situations where first aid should be administered quickly. Hypothermia is a condition in which the body uses up its stored energy and can no longer produce heat. It often occurs after prolonged exposure to cold temperature. Early symptoms include shivering, fatigue, loss of coordination, confusion and disorientation. Late symptoms include no shivering, blue skin, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing and loss of consciousness. To provide first aid for hypothermia individuals should request immediate medical assistance, move victim into a warm room or shelter and remove wet clothing. Using an electric blanket, or skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing or towels, warm the center of their body first. If conscious, warm beverages may help increase the body temperature. Once temperature has increased keep the individual dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including head and neck.

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing which most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Symptoms include reduced blood flow to hands and feet, numbness, aching, tingling or stinging, bluish or pale waxy skin. To provide first aid for frostbite move into a warm room as soon as possible. Unless necessary, individuals should not walk on frostbitten feet or toes and immerse the affected area in warm, not hot, water or warm the affected area using body heat. Officials stress that individuals should not use a heating pad, fireplace or radiator for warming or massage the frostbitten area; doing so may cause more damage

Being proactive and monitoring the physical condition of coworkers can prevent the hypothermia and frostbite. If individuals are outside working they should move into warm locations during breaks while limiting their amount of time outside. They should also carry extra socks gloves, hats, and jacket, blankets and a change of clothes while avoiding any touching of cold metal surfaces with bare skin.