Personal Protective Equipment - Cold Environments

People who work in cold temperatures such as freezer plants, meat-packing houses, cold storage facilities, lumbering, telecommunications, and electric utilities must deal with cold environments. The frequency of worker accidents is higher in cold environments because nerve impulses are inhibited and hands can stiffen and become clumsy. Temperature-related safety problems include ice, snow blindness, reflections from snow, and burns from skin contact with cold metal surfaces.
The main factors contributing to cold injury are exposure to humidity and high winds, contact with wetness or metal, inadequate clothing, age, and general health. Contributing physical conditions include allergies, vascular disease, excessive smoking and drinking, sedative drugs, and some medicines. Cold disorders are classified as “generalized” as in hypothermia or “localized” such as frostbite.

Generalized: Hypothermia

Exposure to cold can cause the body’s internal temperature to drop to a dangerously low level. This condition is known as hypothermia. It can occur at temperatures above freezing. Cold, wet, windy conditions are ideal for causing hypothermia.
  • Uncontrollable shivering;
  • Sensation of cold;
  • Inability to use the hands;
  • Vague, slow, or slurred speech;
  • Memory lapses or forgetfulness;
  • Frequent stumbling; and
  • Incoherence and drowsiness.

Localized: Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when the body extremities do not receive sufficient heat, either because of poor circulation or inadequate insulation. Body tissue which freezes due to exposure to extremely low temperatures results in tissue damage. The most vulnerable body parts include the nose, cheeks, ears, fingers, and toes.
  • Sensation of coldness, followed by numbness
  • Skin becomes bright red, then small patches of white appear as freezing actually occurs;
  • A tingling, stinging, or aching feeling may follow;
  • Skin becomes less elastic;
  • Initial pain is felt, which subsides; and
  • Blisters may appear.
Frostnip occurs when the face or extremities are exposed to a cold wind which causes the skin to turn white.

Evaluating work conditions

The effects of cold temperatures on workers can be reduced through appropriate protective clothing, heating units, and other protective devices such as:
  • Heated warming shelter at work site.
  • General or spot heating to increase workplace temperature.
  • Warm air jets or radiant heaters to warm the hands of employees performing fine hand work.
  • Shields for job site protection from wind and drafts.
  • Metal tool handles and control bars should be covered with insulating material.
  • Appropriate and adequate clothing worn by workers. Dirty or greasy fabric looses much of its insulation value. Clothing should be cotton or wool, denim has poor insulating qualities. Boots, mittens or gloves should be insulated and face and head protection should be worn.
  • Chemical-resistant gloves should be available for chemical handling operations.

Evaluating the facility

Buildings should be evaluated for adequate protection from cold weather. Cold weather damage most often occurs in exposed, out-of-the-way areas of a facility during weekends or other shutdown periods. Failure to identify areas likely to be susceptible to cold weather damage and improper maintenance also contribute to cold weather damage.

1 comment:

john said...

Cold weather can make a lot of working environment dangerous places to work at but with the right safety equipments and gears and the right training and online safety training, I'm pretty sure that the worker is going to be able to finish his task easily and safely.

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