When you work outside for a living (especially in Canada, eh?), it can get very cold while on the job. Working outside in the cold may just seem like a normal part of the job. However, the cold weather can bring about many hazards that you need to protect yourself from. If you’re looking for cold weather toolbox talk topics, then checkout the 7 we have listed below. Feel free to share the information with your crew. We also recommend editing our general messages to ensure the topic is relevant to your work taking place.
#1 – Construction Toolbox Talk on Cold Weather [COLD STRESS PREVENTION]
When working in construction, being outside for long periods is part of the job. During the winter months, outdoor work can really be a challenge – as sometimes, temperatures can get quite low. These types of working conditions can lead to cold stress since your work environment becomes naturally cooled. There’s usually a lot more wind which can take heat away from your body. Snow and rain can make your clothing wet as well. Cold stress can lead to hypothermia and occurs when internal body temperatures get too cold and the body can’t warm itself. It usually happens slowly – and workers may not even realize they have been affected by the cold weather. It starts with some shivering and maybe poor judgement or confused thinking. As it progresses, you may notice a lot more shivering, an inability to think or pay attention, slow/shallow breathing, slurred speech and also poor body coordination. It can get so severe in some people that they actually may lose consciousness and have limited breathing with a weak pulse. So, how can you prevent this from happening at work? The most obvious way would be to eliminate your exposure to the cold. Ask yourself if the work can be done in another location. If that’s not possible, find out if you can get some heated shelters setup close to the work you’re conducting. You can also try work rotation to limit the amount of time you spend outside – this will give your body a chance to warm-up. It goes without saying that you would always dress appropriately when working outside. Please check with your Supervisor to find out what forms of cold weather clothing is acceptable and make sure it doesn’t interfere with your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements.
#2 – Working in the Cold Weather [SIGNS OF COLD STRESS]
There are risks of working outside for a living – especially in the winter months in colder climates. One of the main risks that workers should be aware of is cold stress. This happens to people who get too cold, and their body is unable to warm itself. It starts slow, so sometimes it may be difficult to even know if you or your co-workers have been impacted by it. What should you look for? Well, there are many signs of cold stress including: shivering, poor judgement, inability to pay attention, slow/shallow breathing – and in the worst scenarios, it can cause a loss of consciousness. So, pay close attention to how your body is reacting to the cold – and check your co-workers too. They may not even be aware that they are being impacted by cold stress. If you do notice signs of cold stress in either yourself or your co-workers, please get to a heated area so your body has a chance to warm-up. On really cold days, check with your Supervisor to see if it’s possible to get a heated shelter close to the work taking place.
#3 – Winter Weather Toolbox Talk [SNOW HAZARDS]
The snow can be beautiful – everything is covered with a fresh blanket of beautiful white fluff. There’s no denying it’s pretty. However, it can also lead to some pretty serious injuries, too! This is an area of particular concern during the months following summer. We are so used to sunshine, dry surfaces, and warmth – so when the first snowfall happens, it can really throw us off our game. We may not be as cognizant about checking what may be lurking underneath the snow (insert jaws theme music here). Ok, so maybe a giant, human-eating shark isn’t a real concern; however, things like small pieces of plastic, which may not have presented a hazard during the warmer months, can actually become a slipping hazard if you’re not careful! So, how can you protect yourself from hazards you can’t actually see? All it takes is awareness and a willingness to take a little extra time getting from point A to point B. Be mindful of things under the snow that could cause you to slip, trip and fall. It could be anything from a piece of plywood left behind from a previous shift, or maybe plastic packaging that was improperly discarded and left laying on the ground. When walking in areas where snow is present, just slow down and take small steps. Be prepared for things under the snow that can cause you to fall.
#4 – Working in Cold Safety Talk [DRESS APPROPRIATELY]
While working outside, you may wonder how you can possibly stay warm – especially in the winter months, right? Well, one of the best things you can do is dress appropriately for the colder weather. Common sense tells us that you wouldn’t show up at work on a cold winter day wearing shorts and a t-shirt. However, sometimes even your best efforts in selecting the right attire for cold days at work won’t keep you warm. A tip is to dress in layers. What does this mean? Well, layer your clothing so you are getting additional protection from the cold temperatures. By layering, you can add or remove clothing as required. You don’t have to dress like Joey in the episode of Friends when he put on all of Chandler’s clothing to prove a point. However, you could try wearing a thin t-shirt as your first layer, and then putting a warmer sweater over top of it. Doing so will give you multiple layers of protection from the cold weather. WARNING: Don’t wear so many articles of clothing that it restricts your ability to move freely, as this causes a whole other hazard in itself! You should also make sure your clothing choices align with your employers Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) policies.
# 5 – Cold Weather Safety [SLIPPERY SURFACES EVERYWHERE]
How many times have we heard the warning about slippery surfaces during the winter months? We all know about the dangers of slip hazards, yet somehow, we all seem to have a story about experiencing a nasty fall we didn’t expect. You know how it is – your mind is somewhere other than thinking about the slippery path of travel ahead, you don’t anticipate any type of trouble, and then all of a sudden you’ve lost your footing and you’re laying on the ground. Like most people, you try to get up as quickly as possible and then immediately look around to see who noticed your little tumble. Yes, this situation can be embarrassing, but it can also cause injury. Things like fractures, sprains (and a bruised ego) can all result from a slip, trip and fall. So, how can you protect yourself? One of the best things you can do is stay focused on your path of travel. Be mindful of possible slip, trip and fall hazards and take steps to avoid them. Don’t take shortcuts through icy/snowy areas – stick to designated walkways that have been sanded/salted. If you come across slippery surfaces, do something to bring attention to the hazard so your co-workers don’t become injured – try signage or flagging off the area.
# 6 – Winter Working Toolbox Talk [BEWARE OF FROSTBITE]
This cold weather toolbox talk will help you and your team understand the more about frostbite. The term “frostbite” definitely doesn’t sound pleasant – and there’s a reason for that. In case you’re not familiar, frostbite is a result of being exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time. So, what does frostbite look like? Usually, your skin will become white and you won’t have much circulation. In the worst possible scenario, blisters can actually form (ouch!) If you have signs of frostbite, it’s important that it’s treated properly. The first thing you need to do is warm-up. You can add extra clothing or cover up with a blanket. Make sure you also get out of the cold and into a warm location. When inside, you can put the frostbitten area in warm water (not hot). Remove any wet or tight clothing that may cut off blood flow to the affected area. DO NOT rub the affected area because rubbing causes damage to the skin and tissue. The cold weather is here to stay for a while yet, so keep your guard up against cold weather injuries.
#7 – Toolbox Talks Cold Weather [SPRAINED MUSCLES – OUCH!]
This cold weather toolbox talk will help you understand the impact the cold can have on your muscles. When the weather is cold, it seems to bring out all our aches and pains. Why does this happen? Well, the cold weather actually deceases blood flow to our muscles. This means they instantly tighten up when we are exposed to low temperatures. A tight, cold muscle shortens its length, and this reduces our range of motion. As a result, all those “normal” tasks that we conduct each day, such as walking up the stairs or reaching overhead, are much more difficult in the colder weather. A strained or “pulled” muscle occurs when a shortened muscle is lengthened beyond its comfort zone. During the cold weather, even the simplest tasks like picking up a bag on the ground, or tying our shoes can result in a pulled muscle. Please keep this in mind, and practice caution while working outdoors.
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