Safety While Working in Freezing Weather

March 2017 Safety Topic

It is due to the hard work of the CUIMC Facilities staff that the campus can remain in full operation during freezing weather. CUIMC employees responsible for cleaning up snow and other outdoor tasks have to adhere to important safety practices as they work. A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Whenever temperatures drop below normal and wind speed increases, heat can leave your body more rapidly.

“Cold stress”occurs by driving down the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature. Some of the most common injuries that affect employees as a result of cold stress include frostbite, hypothermia, and trench foot:

  • Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. The lower the temperature, the more quickly frostbite will occur. Frostbite typically affects the feet and hands.
  • Hypothermia occurs when body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced and the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F.
  • Trench foot is caused by prolonged exposure to wet and cold temperatures. To prevent heat loss, the body constricts the blood vessels to shut down circulation in the feet. The skin tissue begins to die because of a lack of oxygen and nutrients and due to the buildup of toxic products.

Safety Tips for CUIMC Employees Working in Freezing Weather:

  • Dress properly for the cold
  • Stay dry in the cold because moisture or dampness can increase the rate of heat loss from the body
  • Keep extra clothing handy in case you get wet and need to change
  • Drink warm, sweetened fluids
  • Use proper safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to you.

For more information or questions about safety while working in freezing weather, please speak with your supervisor or contact a member of Campus Life Safety and Regulatory Compliance.