The extreme cold affecting large swathes of the US and Canada has many crews working in life-threatening conditions. Hyporthermia can affect you even when the temperature is above freezing, so it’s important to know the signs and ensure your crew is properly prepared for cold weather.
Get the Right Gear
Start by dressing right. Layering allows crew members to protect themselves from the cold. Invest in the right gear. Appropriate clothing is expensive, but its still cheaper than being off work for weeks due to illness.
When you spend money on gear, start with a good pair of gloves and boots. Losing fingers and toes to frostbite can be a career-ending loss for some. When selecting gloves, ensure that they allow you the dexterity you need to pick up small fasteners. When selecting boots, find a pair that offer at least 400 milligrams of insulation.
Provide a space for warming up so crew members can take breaks out of the wind. Encourage the consumption of warm drinks at regular intervals to keep warm and hydrated.
Know the Signs
Crews need to keep a close eye on one another during inclement weather. It doesn’t have to be freezing out for hypothermia to set in. Some symptoms include:
- Slurred speech
- Labored breathing
- Weak pulse
- Loss of coordination
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
If you suspect hypothermia, get your crew out of the cold immediately. Call 911. If you have blankets or extra clothing, wrap the person in those. Give them a warm drink if you have one available.
Symptoms of frostbite include:
- Numbness in the toes, fingertips and ears
- Itchiness, stinging, burning or pins and needles
- Skin discoloration (red, white, gray, yellow or blue)
- The skin becomes hard or waxy
- Blistering after reheating
If you suspect frostbite, seek medical help. Avoid rubbing the area as this may damage tissue. Place hands and feet in warm water or use a towel soaked in warm water on areas like ears and nose.