Wind Chill Index (Cold Weather) Safety Talk
Cold weather poses many hazards for those individuals who are required to be exposed to it during their work. The winter months bring the possibility of additional workplace injuries and illnesses. Some direct consequences for being exposed to cold environments include frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia. One factor to consider when working in a cold weather environment is the effect of wind speed has on the temperature on the body.
Wind Chill Index
The presence of wind in an already cold environment can pose a deadly combination. It is important to realize the effect wind has when paired with cold temperatures. For example if it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside and there is also 20 MPH winds present the temperature actually feels like -9 degrees Fahrenheit to the body. Because of the danger wind poses in cold weather, the National Weather Service will often issue wind chill advisories and warnings when a deadly combination of wind and cold air threaten an area. Below is a handy wind chill chart provided by the National Weather Service to determine what the temperature actually is when wind is present. (See also- wind chill calculator)
Best Practices to Avoid Cold Stress Related Health Hazards
- Eliminate or limit work as much as possible when extreme cold temperatures are present. (The ACGIH established recommendations for work in colder temperatures that can be found here.)
- Allow for acclimatization to cold environments or weather. If the weather is extremely cold for the area or time of year, you will not yet be used to it and are more susceptible to succumb to a cold related illness.
- Layer up on clothing and keep clothes dry. It is important to remove any wet clothing or boots and put on dry items when working in a cold environment.
- Take breaks in warm areas or vehicles as needed.
- Drink warm beverages to help warm up your core temperature.
- Monitor the condition of other workers around you. If you notice something could be wrong get them into a warm area and notify a supervisor.
Cold weather brings additional hazards for workers who are exposed to colder temperatures. Winds can create a dangerous situation in cold weather climates. Follow best practices when working in cold weather environments to lessen the chance of becoming a victim to frostbite, trench foot, or hypothermia.