Global warming has resulted to record low temperatures during the winter. According to meteorologists, there will be another harsh and cold winter coming. They have already provided the instructions on how to survive during the long winter months. However, it is not only the meteorologists who are doing the dissemination of the list. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has constantly reminded employers and workers to take the necessary steps in preventing and treating injuries and illnesses related to the cold weather.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act calls for employers to provide their workers with working conditions that are free from recognized hazards that may result in serious physical injuries or death. The OSHA has identified several winter related risks that could lead to serious injury or death which include hypothermia, frostbite, and cold-induced injuries. These illnesses may be due to employees exerting too much effort while they are working in cold temperatures.
Employees who are most at risk of cold-related illnesses include construction workers, fishing, and agriculture related jobs. They work outdoors and hence are susceptible to weather injuries and illnesses. It is, therefore, the job of the employer to ensure that both the buildings and employees are protected during the winter months. The following are the measures that management can do to protect their employees, as suggested by the OSHA:
Provide Scaffolding employee education
The OSHA recommends employers to provide their workers with the necessary knowledge about winter related hazards which is essential to the prevention of cold-induced injuries and illnesses. At the very least, employees must be informed about “cold stress” and its related injuries such as hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot, and others. A sudden drop in temperature may result in tissue damage or possible death. Especially when workers are employed with a scaffolding company in edmonton it is critical for them to understand the safety regulations
The employees must be properly trained on how to recognize the signs of cold stress such as uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, fatigue, impaired motor skills, and confused behavior. The OSHA has provided employers with a Cold Stress Card, a pocket-sized reference guide on the prevention and treatment of cold stress injuries, which they can give to their employees. The guide will help employees detect the signs of cold stress. Visit the Scaffolding Pros website for more details on proper scaffolding training for employees.
Provide Construction Controls and protective gear
The weather is something that the employer cannot control. However, they have the duty to provide their employees with the necessary gear and tools to survive cold temperatures. Management should install engineering controls such as radiant heaters to reduce the risk of cold stress. Outdoor workers should be provided with protective gear designed for winter work such as gloves, hats, and heavy coats. If no protective gear is provided, employees should be encouraged to wear something warm.
Implement Safe Work Practices
Aside from worker education, the employer should make sure that there is a safe workplace practice in place for the employees. These practices may include regularly checking the weather forecast or outdoor scheduling work during the warmest part of the day. Employees should also be given short rest periods to prevent exhaustion or fatigue. If possible, the rest period should be done indoors or in a warm area. There should also be warm beverages in the workplace to help increase the body temperature of employees.
Provide safe equipment
For work below the freezing point, thermal insulating materials should cover metal handles and bars. For the machines, they should be functional even if the employee does not remove mittens or gloves.
Surveillance and monitoring
In job sites where the temperature may drop to less than 16°C, there should be a thermometer on hand for monitoring of temperature changes. If the temperature is below the freezing point, monitoring should be at least every 4 hours. In outdoor sites where the air temperature is below the freezing point, recording of both air temperature and wind speed should be done by the employer.
In the case of emergency, the employer should outline the procedure for administering first aid and obtaining medical care. Each shift should have one trained person tasked to handle emergencies. Scaffolding Pros does have that system in place for their employees
Working in cold conditions or during the winter can be challenging. Without the proper safety measures, employees are placed at a huge risk of getting cold-related injuries or illness. Protecting both the workplace and employees can be beneficial to employers. Their business will not only continue, but they can also look forward to motivated and productive employees. It is the duty of the employer to protect the workplace and employees, especially during the winter.