Weekly Tool Box Talk – Harmful Effects of Cold Weather

With snow in the forecast, it is time to be cognizant of safety in cold weather. Most cold related injuries are a result of exposure to humidity, high wind, wet condition, and inadequate clothing.  When cold exposure lasts for more than an hour, cooling of your skin and reduces blood flow to your hands, leads to bloated sensation of touch, pain and loss of dexterity and agility.Employees should be aware of the harmful effects of cold weather, which includes trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. Trench Foot – Is caused by long, continuous exposure to a wet, cold environment.  Symptoms – Tingling or itching sensation, burning pain and swelling.  Blisters can form in extreme cases.Treatment – Move individual to a warm, dry area.  Where the affected tissue can be treated, carefully wash and dry, re-warm and slightly elevate.  Seek medical attention.  Frostbite – Occurs when the skin tissue actually freezes causing ice crystals to form between cells and draw water from there.  Typically occurs at temperature below 30° F.       Symptoms – Uncomfortable sensations or coldness, tingling, stinging or aching feeling, followed by numbness.  Ears, fingers, toes, cheeks, and nose are primarily affected.  Frostbite appears white and is cold to the touch.Treatment – Seek medical assistance immediately.  Frostbitten parts should be covered with dry cloth bandages.  DO NOT massage frostbitten tissue because this may cause greater injury. Hypothermia – Describes the condition of dramatically lowered body temperature that can result from overexposure to cold. Symptoms – The first symptom is shivering, and mild confusion.  As body temperature falls, the victim is in a state of dazed consciousness, blurred speech and irrational behavior.  The most severe state results in slowing of the heart rate, blood flow, and breathing. Treatment – Seek medical assistance immediately.  Conserve the victims remaining body heat and provide additional heat sources.  Remove all wet clothing; add layers of dry clothing, blankets, etc.  External warming techniques may be applied (body to body contact, chemical heat packs, insulated hot water bottles).  Avoid giving beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.