Working outside, even when the weather is frightful

 
By Staff Writer • Published: January 15th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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With chill-inducing winds, shiver-worthy temperatures and the potential for harrowing winter storms, January keeps Americans in many states shut snuggly behind doors.

When winter’s at its harshest, even snow-loving kids and hard-core sportsmen duck indoors. But some people don’t have that option: their jobs require lots of time outside, no matter the weather. Think of the men and women who deliver your mail, read your utility meters and direct traffic during an emergency.

These all-weather workers have more than just uncomfortable chilliness or a case of the sniffles to avoid. Winter’s fury can seriously damage your health. Hypothermia, frostbite, chilblains [chill-blanes] and trench foot are some of the ailments caused by prolonged exposure to colder-than-normal temperatures, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They can incite a variety of nasty health effects, ranging from disorientation to permanent skin damage, frozen body parts and, ultimately, death.

So how can you outdoor workers stay healthy despite hazardous winter weather? Follow these tips from the CDC and start your safety efforts before the workday begins. Dress in layers you can remove or add as needed. Remember, you don’t want to get too hot while you’re working, either. Sweat dampens your clothes, making you colder later.

Bring coffee or hot cocoa to work in an insulated travel mug to help keep you warm for hours. Prepare a cold weather kit with chemical heat packs and extra socks, hats and gloves for days when you just can’t stop the chill. Most importantly, take regular breaks and warm up in a toasty car, your office or even a coffee shop. Make an agreement with other workers to look out for one another and check in frequently to make sure everyone’s OK.

Hang in there, outdoor workers. Winter won’t last forever.