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Winter is in full swing throughout many parts of the country. Some have already had weeks of snowfall, while others may be experiencing cold weather soon. While the dangers of winter weather vary depending on location, nearly all of us across the country face weather extremes at one point or another. Winter storms can range from moderate snowfall over a prolonged period of time to a blizzard with extreme winds. Many of the winter storms across the country are accompanied by low temperatures which often bring ice, sleet, and freezing rain in addition to the snow.
Winter storms can be unpredictable, severe, and often hazardous, especially to those who are exposed to them in their work environment. There are a number of industries and jobs that involve substantial exposure to the elements. Snow cleanup crews, emergency response teams, police officers, and electricians are all crucial in trying to safety during winter storms. However, the weather is not the only hazardous factor that presents itself during these times.
Many employees who work indoors are also impacted, such as those in food processing, cold storage, supermarkets, or transportation. If they are not properly protected or trained, they can also be negatively impacted by the cold weather. The following tips may help employers and employees understand the dangers of working in cold environments and how to prevent safety risks.
When working in cold weather, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following essential safety tips:
According to the CDC, when exposed to low temperatures, the body starts to lose heat faster than it can produce it. If this happens for an extended period, the cold can expend the body’s energy, which can lead to hypothermia or a severely low body temperature. The symptoms of hypothermia can include shivering, fatigue, confusion, and in severe cases blueness of the skin, and loss of consciousness.
Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can rapidly shut down regions in late fall and winter. Fatalities can be caused not only by prolonged exposure to cold weather, but also by traffic accidents on icy roads. No matter the circumstance, it is important to be prepared before the cold weather arrives—both at the home and in the workplace. Employers should ensure a safe working environment for employees exposed to colder climates.