Many of us when the weather is cold outside, we retreat indoors but for folks who work construction, couriers, truck drivers, service station attendants, and others, it is a fact of their everyday work that they will be outdoors. For our paramedics, we need to work outdoors and do our very best to care for you.
For those not working outdoors this winter, there still are some valuable lessons below. It is important to recognize the risks and hazards working outside in the winter brings. Failure to acknowledge or respect the dangers winter brings is a recipe for potential bodily harm or death.
• Wear layered clothing. Wearing multiple layers of clothing allows the worker to adjust their protection based on current temperature. Take off layers as you get too warm and put them on as it gets colder. The base should keep you dry, next layer is something to insulate, outer layer is wind/waterproof. • Take extra clothes. Bring a change of clothes in case you get wet. Dry clothing always helps keep workers warm, especially when working outdoors. Things like dry socks or gloves/mittens are essential • Take a break. During extremely cold or windy weather, take regular breaks to warm up before continuing work. If possible, take shelter indoors from time to time, to warm up that body. If it gets extremely cold, stop working immediately and get inside to warm up. • Drink up. Even though it’s cold out, keep hydrated by drinking water or other warm drinks. You will still sweat when working, even in cold temperatures. We likely need even more water in the winter months than summer. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. • Take shelter. In windy conditions and if the workspace allows it, set up a shelter to block the wind. This will help alleviate some of the difficulties of working in the cold. Prevent wind related problems with face protection. • Know the signs. Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. Get inside if you begin to experience them. If you see a co-worker showing symptoms, take them inside immediately. Dizziness, confusion, strange behaviour are early warning signs. • Anti-slip shoes. To avoid slipping on ice, wear winter boots with a strong tread. Spread sand or rock salt on the ice to provide a rough surface for footwear to grip. • Clear the path. Shovel pathways where employees, clients and/or the general public will be walking. • Heat ventilation. If using a non-electric heater to heat a shelter, ensure the shelter is ventilated to let gases like carbon monoxide escape. Never run a heating appliance like propane heater, wood stove or natural gas appliance, without proper ventilation. Having a cardon monoxide detector in every location is essential, but it’s also the law in Saskatchewan. Remember keep your furnace exhaust vents free of ice and snow too.
• Drive safely. When driving in winter, ensure your vehicle’s fluids are topped up, including a good fuel supply. Be aware that the road can become icy, so drive slower and pay attention to changing conditions. Did you know SK Highways as an interactive app to give you road condition information while you travel? Check it out in the app store.
Winter isn’t the most ideal time of year to be working outdoors, but the work does go on. Even our own activities like skiing, snowshoeing, skating or going for a walk take us outdoors for longer periods in colder weather.
Dressing properly, being prepared for an emergency and knowing what to do in an emergency are essential steps. No need to hide indoors all winter but when you venture out be prepared. Have a safe day!
From all of us at Parkland Ambulance Care, we want to wish everyone a very healthy and happy new 2023. May the new year be one of good health and happiness!