Looking for a cold weather safety talk? Here are a few you are sure to find helpful. Feel free to copy and paste our messages into your own toolbox or safety talk template, and share with your crews.
Prevent Injuries Due to Cold Weather
When you work outdoors for a living, you may just feel that cold weather hazards are part of the job. While this may be true to a certain degree since we can’t actually change the weather, there are things that can be done to protect yourself. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while working outdoors during the winter months:
Listen to the Weather Forecast
You should always check the weather forecast before going out in the cold. If conditions are hazardous, a wind chill warning will be issued. If the wind chill is very cold, exposed skin can freeze in minutes. Keep this in mind before performing any work outdoors.
Plan Ahead for Work in Cold Weather
You should also have a plan in advance to ensure that safety concerns are addressed when the wind chill
is high. For example, outside workers could schedule warm-up breaks.
It’s a good idea to wear layers of warm clothing – in addition to an outer jacket that is wind-resistant. Mittens, boots and a hat are also important. As you more than likely know, we lose a large portion of our body heat from the head so wearing a hat should be a no-brainer. When the wind chill is high, try to cover as much exposed skin as possible. Wear a scarf, neck tube or face mask (if permitted at you place of work). You should always consider the hazards of the work task and chose appropriate clothing. Check yourself frequently for signs of frostbite.
If you’re working outdoors for long periods, you should find a shelter that can protect you from the wind. If the wind chill is very cold, limit the time you spend outside and seek shelter to warm-up.
Depending on the work you’re doing, sometimes your clothing can get wet. This can cause chills in your body to happen rapidly. You should always remove outer layers of clothing or open your coat if you are sweating or wet.
Stay Active During Your Shift
Did you know that walking or running will help keep you warm? It’s true! Activity will help your body to generate body heat, and therefore, keep you warm.
Always Know Your Limits
Not everyone has the same tolerance for the cold. Some people are more susceptible to the cold weather, particularly children, the elderly and those with circulation problems. Only you know when it’s time to take a break from frigid temperatures – don’t just follow the crowd and break when others do.
Definition of Weather
What constitutes as too cold to work? Or when is it safe? Below is a guide to show you what temperatures are classified as safe or dangerous.
- Very Mild: More than 7 degrees Celsius above normal (see definition of normal below).
- Mild: More than 4 to 7 degrees Celsius above normal.
- Cold: 4 to 7 degrees Celsius below normal.
- Bitterly Cold or Very Cold: More than 7 degrees Celsius below normal.
- Normal: A long-term average, usually over a 30-year period. Note, this temperature is relative to the time of year.
So, what is precipitation and how can it affect your work? See the guidelines below to acquire a better understanding.
- Rain: Liquid precipitation of significant duration and extent.
- Rain Showers: Stop & start suddenly and vary widely in intensity, lasting less than one hour.
- Intermittent Rain: Stops and starts repeatedly, although not as abruptly or as frequently as showers.
- Drizzle: Droplets are fine and minute, much smaller than rain, and appear to float in the air.
- Freezing Drizzle / Rain: Freezes on impact, forms a coat of ice on the ground and on objects they strike. They occur when the air temperature is below zero Celsius near the ground, but above zero Celsius higher up.
- Snow: Precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals of significant duration and extent.
- Flurry or Snow Shower: Snow fall that suddenly stops and starts, changing rapidly in intensity; the accumulation and extent of which are limited.
- Snow Squall: Strong winds, flurries and poor visibility.
- Blowing Snow: Lifted by the wind from the earth’s surface to a height of 2 meters or more.
- Drifting Snow: Blown to a height of less than 2 meters.
- Blizzard: A severe storm lasting 3 or more hours, with low temperatures, strong winds and poor visibility due to blowing snow.
- Ice Pellets: Frozen raindrops, snowflakes and or snow encased in ice, which bounce when hitting the ground
- Ice Crystals: Tiny sprinkles that hang in the air and sparkle.
- Hail: Precipitation in the form of lumps of ice, larger than ice pellets, usually the size of peas and or cherries, however, may be as large as oranges.
When is the wind considered to be a hazard while on the job? See the guide below to learn more:
Inland Wind Speeds:
• Light – (0 to 9 KM/H)
• Moderate – (10 to 40 KM/H)
• Strong / Windy – (41 to 60 KM/H)
• Very Strong / Gales – (61 to 90 KM/H)
• Very Strong / Storm Force – (over 91 KM/H)
• Hurricane Force – (over 115 KM/H)
Marine Wind Speeds:
• Light – (less than 15 knots)
• Moderate – (15 to 19 Knots)
• Strong – (20 to 33 Knots)
• Gales – (34 to 47 Knots)
• Storm Force – (48 to 63 Knots)
• Hurricane – (64 Knots and over)
Wind chill describes how a human being would feel in the wind at the ambient temperature. The wind chill index does not take into account the effect of sunshine. Bright sunshine may reduce the effect of wind chill (make it feel warmer) by 6 to 10 units.
For a given combination of temperature and wind speed, the wind chill index corresponds roughly to the temperature that one would feel in a very light wind. For example, a temperature of -25°C and a wind speed of 20 km/h give a wind chill index of -37. This means that, with a wind of 20 km/h and a temperature of -25°C, one would feel as if it were -37°C in a very light wind.
The Dangers of Working in Cold Temperatures
Working outdoors for a living? You’re not alone. This isn’t so bad during the warmer seasons, but when winter comes – look out! Workers need to be reminded regularly of the signs of stress and injury due to excessively cold temperatures while working outside in the wind.
Please remind your crews about the following types, warning signs, symptoms and first aid treatments for cold-related injuries/stresses:
Frostnip: This is a mild form of frostbite, where only the skin freezes.
- Susceptible body parts: Extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and or tip of the nose.
- Symptoms: Painful tingling or burning sensation. Skin appears yellowish or white, but feels soft to the touch.
- First aid: Do not rub or massage the area. Warm area gradually –use body heat. Report to medical clinic for evaluation / treatment.
Frostbite: Skin and underlying tissue (fat, muscle, bone) are frozen.
- Susceptible body parts: Extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and or tip of the nose.
- Symptoms: Skin appears white and waxy and is hard to the touch. No sensation, the area is numb.
- First aid: Immediately seek medical attention. Do not rub or massage the area, warm slowly, use body heat.
Hypothermia: Feeling cold over a prolonged period can cause a drop in core body temperature (below 37 degrees Celsius).
- Symptoms: Shivering, confusion and loss of muscular control can occur. Poor performance; irrational decisions, not mentally alert. Can progress to a life-threatening condition where shivering stops, the person loses consciousness, and cardiac arrest may occur
- First Aid: Immediately seek medical attention! Get the person indoors. Lay person down; avoid rough handling, particularly if the person is unconscious. Gently remove wet clothing if applicable. Warm person gradually, using available heat source.
Beware of Cold Stress and Hypothermia
When working outdoors for a living, you need to be mindful of cold stress and hypothermia. Even if your body temperature drops just a few degrees below normal (which is about 98.6_F), you can feel the effects of the cold. You may experience shivering, slurred speech, weakness, drowsiness, and confusion. It may even be difficult to do the simple things.
What’s interesting is that people who have been impacted by hypothermia may not even feel cold. If you suspect hypothermia, call an ambulance or a doctor immediately. You should also take the person into a warm place or at the very least, provide shelter. Keep their head covered and remove all wet clothing. Bundle them with dry blankets or provide them with dry clothing to change into. Do not rub or massage the person, and definitely don’t put them into hot water. Instead, try giving them warm beverages (not give alcohol or caffeine). If the person is unconscious, use advanced first aid techniques (e.g., CPR) only if you are trained to do so.
Prevent Injury By…
- Dressing warmly, staying dry and bringing along extra dry clothes.
- Letting someone know where you will be and when you expect to be back. If with a buddy, check each other frequently for signs of overexposure to the cold (shivering, slurred speech, confusion, drowsiness, weakness).
- Dressing in layers. Layering your clothes allows you to adjust what you are wearing to suit the temperature conditions. In cold weather, wear cotton or lightweight wool next to your skin and wool layers over your undergarments. Wear waterproof, wind resistant outer-garment fabrics such as nylon if working outside.
- Wearing a hat can be very helpful since a lot of body heat is lost through the head.
- Wearing waterproof boots in damp or snowy weather and always pack rain gear.
Please remember, it doesn’t have to be winter to suffer from hypothermia. Anyone not prepared for a change in weather or conditions, in even relatively mild temperatures, can be at risk (especially if you are wet).
Cold Weather Safety Talk
When Summer and fall have passed us by, we find ourselves saying hello to winter (brrr, I’m cold just thinking about it!). Even though it’s cold outside, we still have to work and get the job done. There are several things we can do to keep warm and prevent cold weather-related incidents.
- The first thing we want to do is to keep our body temperature at or about normal, 98.6°F/37°C. This can be accomplished by wearing layers of clothing both inside and outdoors. Wear cotton or lightweight wool next to the skin and wool layers over your underwear.
- Keep dry by having proper rain gear available and a pair of good, waterproof boots. An extra pair of clean, dry socks can really come in handy.
- Don’t forget to protect your neck and ears, as you can lose a lot of heat from these two areas. Also, a good pair of gloves is essential.
Do you know the signs of frostbite? Usually our skin will become white and there won’t be much circulation. In the worst case, blisters will form but sometimes we won’t feel any pain. So, how can you treat first aid? Here’s a few tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t rub the frozen part of the body with snow
- Add extra clothing or use a blanket to cover the frozen area
- Get out of the cold and into a warm location
- The frozen area may be immersed in warm water but don’t use hot water
- If the condition does not improve, seek professional medical attention
Cold weather is here to stay for a few months — keep your guard up against cold weather injury.
A Cold Weather Safety Talk About the Danger of Propane Fueled Vehicles in the Cold Weather
Working with propane fueled vehicles in the cold weather? If yes, there are a few safety tips you may want to consider.
First of all, it’s helpful to know that propane is a gas that is turned into a liquid when stored in pressurized cylinders. You should be aware that as the temperature of the fuel tank rises, the liquid fuel expands which increases pressure inside the tank. In cold weather, this could result in a fire or explosion if a propane powered vehicle with more than 80% liquid fuel in the fuel tank is brought into a heated building from outside. The increased air temperature in the shop causes increased pressure inside the fuel tank. This will open the safety relief valve if the tank has been overfilled, and the released propane gas can burn if any ignition sources are present.
General safety tips to remember while working with propane fueled vehicles:
Cold Weather Reminders:
Before bringing a propane-fueled vehicle indoors for service, be sure the propane system is leak free. In weather above freezing, use a soap and water solution to check connections, valves, and lines. In colder weather, use a commercial leak detector solution that is available from safety supply houses, or use a combustible gas indicator that is calibrated for propane. Be sure the fuel tank is not filled beyond the maximum recommended filling capacity (usually 80%).
Check the Fuel Level:
The level of liquid fuel can be checked as follows:
- Park the vehicle on a level area outdoors with no possible sources of ignition nearby.
- While wearing neoprene gloves, disconnect the fuel line and briefly open the tank valve. If the container is safely filled, you will hear an audible hiss when the valve is opened. No white fog will appear.
- If the tank is overfilled, you will see a white fog when the valve is opened.
- If the tank is overfilled, do not take the vehicle indoors until the liquid level is reduced below 80%. Consider letting the vehicle run to accomplish this.
- When the liquid has reached a safe level, recheck all valves, especially the pressure relief valve to be sure there are no leaks before moving the vehicle indoors.
The fuel lines should be free of fuel when the vehicle is indoors for repairs or servicing. Fuel lines should be charged only when propane is required to operate the engine. To do this safely, turn the tank valve to the closed position. Clockwise closes the valve. Allow the engine to operate until it stops from lack of fuel.
When repair or service work has been completed, recharge the fuel line by opening the fuel line valve VERY SLOWLY, until the line fills with propane. If the excess flow valve should close, shut off the tank valve and wait 10 – 15 seconds for the valve to reset. Then, SLOWLY open the tank valve again.
If propane gas is released in an enclosed area (for example, if the relief valve opens), the following actions should be quickly taken:
- Evacuate the area.
- Remember that propane vapours are heavier than air and will settle at floor level.
- Eliminate all sources of ignition (torches, water heaters, pilot lights, cigarettes)
- Close off the source of the leak if possible and open all doors to ventilate the area.
- Do not restart any ignition sources until after the propane door has been eliminated.
Be sure to follow all safe operating procedures as recommended by the equipment manufacturer and consult with them, and/or the distributor if you have questions.
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