There are plenty of hazards to be aware of on a construction site; from machinery to materials and even more so in the winter months. However, one hazard which is often overlooked in the winter months is cold stress. Working on construction sites in the UK, you may think you’re perfectly used to working in the cold and wet however if you don’t take measures to avoid cold stress or pay attention to the signs it could have a big impact on your health.
Cold stress occurs when the body can no longer regulate and maintain a normal bodily temperature. Illnesses can then occur which are cold-related and potentially result in death or bodily harm. The colder the environment becomes, the harder the body has to work in order to maintain its temperature. When this occurs and precautions have not been taken it can become dangerous. If the cold persists and precautions aren’t taken it can lead to hazards such as frostbite, hypothermia and chilblains.
Signs of Cold Stress
It is important to be aware of the signs of cold stress, especially as some are more subtle than others. Signs of cold stress include;
- Lack of Alertness
- Blue Lips and/or Fingers
- Stiff Muscles
Avoiding Cold Stress
Most importantly, there are plenty of measures which can be taken in order to avoid and prevent cold stress. Wearing the right clothing is essential in cold weather; make sure to dress in layers with the innermost layer being one that is sweat absorbing. The layers should then include a fleece type item followed by a waterproof. Make sure to take this advice when it comes to socks also and have two pairs on; one to absorb sweat and another to insulate, as above. If the conditions are wet, make sure to wear waterproof footwear.
Where possible make sure to use heating equipment, such as electric heaters to keep the air as warm as possible. In addition, make sure all workers are aware of the signs of cold stress and keep check on themselves and others.
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