How to Stay Warm During Cold-Weather Projects
When working in extreme conditions (hot or cold), it’s absolutely critical that you take occasional breaks. When temperatures drop, the frequency of breaks should depend on just how cold it is—the colder the air, the more often you should be warming up.
Site supervisors should create a break rotation schedule that ensures that every single person on site gets regular breaks from the cold. The air temperature as well as the wind-chill should directly inform this schedule.
Keeping warm is internal as much as it is external. This may be one of the few situations in which you’re actually encouraged to eat high-calorie foods. Warm, carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta will help offset the calories your body is burning to keep you warm while doing physical labor in extreme cold.
As for beverages, difficult as it may be, you should avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and hot chocolate. You may feel a craving for these comforting drinks, but caffeine dehydrates you. Opt instead for caffeine-free tea with sugar, which will warm you up, hydrate you and give you energy.
As many precautions as we take, it’s still possible for dangerous situations to arise on a cold-weather project site. One great safety measure is the old, tried-and-true buddy system. People working in close proximity should keep an eye on one another and be on the lookout for any warning signs of exhaustion or hypothermia. These signs can include shivering, loss of balance, slurred words and a pale or swollen face. Hypothermia is dangerous in itself, but the symptoms can also result in dangerous accidents.
Another cold-related danger is frostbite, which is caused by prolonged exposure to cold air. Watch for the early signs of frostbite, such as itchy skin, numbness and a burning sensation. If you or your buddy sees any of these indicators, get out of the cold immediately and consult a doctor.
When temperatures plummet and the rest of the world retreats indoors, your job may keep you out in the elements. Whatever the weather conditions, your main priority should be your health and safety. Keep a close eye on yourself and your team as you brave the cold this winter.
Brendan Thomas is the vice president of business development at Lifting Gear Hire Corp., a national supplier of lifting and rigging equipment in Bridgeview, Ill.