18-01-2017

Today, we’re focusing on a more overlooked hazard when working at this time of year – Cold Stress.  We might think we are used to working in a typically wet and cold country, but if you don’t pay attention to the signs of cold stress or take measures to avoid it, the effects of cold stress could have a big impact on your health.
 

What is Cold Stress?

When the human body can no longer maintain a normal temperature, the individual can be exposed to cold-related injuries and illnesses, potentially resulting in death or bodily harm. As an environment becomes colder, the body must work more to maintain its temperature. This can become an issue if precautions aren’t taken and the effects of cold upon the body aren’t acted upon.

If cold conditions persist, the body’s blood flow will move from extremities such as hands and feet to the core of your body. This can expose the body to cold stress hazards such as frostbite, hypothermia, chilblains or even trench foot.


What are the signs of Cold Stress?

Some are more subtle than others, but without you fully realising it you could be experiencing multiple symptoms of cold stress at work! Keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Blue lips and fingers
  • Confusion
  • Reduced alertness
  • Stiffness of muscles
  • Shivering


Could I get Cold Stress?

If you’re not careful, yes. According to the Office for National Statistics, an estimated 31,100 excess winter deaths occurred in 2012-2013. If you work in cold environments or find yourself working on a site outside over winter, the combination of wetness, wind and cold is a harsh combination. If you want to know more about assessing cold stress in your workplace, the Health and Safety Executive has a range of free documents available on their website.
 

What measures can I take to avoid cold stress?

There are a number of strategies and protocols you can employ to reduce cold stress, which are even more effective if you combine them!

Clothing:

  • Dress in layers. In an inner layer should ideally be a fabric which will absorb any potential sweat produced (nylon/polyester etc. not cotton).
  • A middle layer should then be applied which consists of wool, cotton, or a fleece.
  • Finally, an outer layer of waterproof clothing or material should be worn. This combination allows you to stay dry, warm and layers can easily be replaced without needing to remove all clothing.
  • To keep feet warm and dry, two layers of socks may also be necessary. One later to absorb sweat and another to insulate, using the examples of materials above.
  • If you’re working in wet conditions, be sure to use waterproof footwear.

 

Workplace:

  • Using heating equipment such as fuel heaters or radiant heaters in the workplace can warm the air, and keep workers from working in cold conditions.

  • Keep an ample supply of gas refills; you never know when you’ll need that extra fuel!
  • Protect workers from wind and weather by either utilising the workplace and location of work (if possible) or through the use of barriers.
  • Insulating material on equipment, especially equipment with metal handles that is used frequently.
  • Employ a buddy system so workers can keep an eye on each other and be aware for signs of cold stress.
  • Keep a Wind Chill Chart around your workplace alongside a thermometer so your team can observe any changes in temperature whilst observing the chart.
     

Following these steps can be crucial in keeping yourself and your team warm, dry and safe throughout this long winter period.

For heating equipment, be sure to browse our range of heaters available here.

Got heating equipment already but need a gas refill? We’ve got you covered.

If you have any questions about our equipment or services, please send an enquiry to your local Speedy depot.

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