Winter winds are beginning to blow, so for organizations with outside operations, it’s time for training on how to work safely in cold weather. Today’s Advisor gives you a Training Exercise from BLR’s audio PowerPoint® presentation on “Working in Cold Conditions.”
First, review with trainees the jobs that are likely to be done in cold conditions, the hazards of working in cold conditions, and methods for mitigating these hazards, including engineering and administrative controls and PPE. After review of all relevant information, check the understanding of trainees by asking them to answer the following questions:
- What jobs at this workplace may include work in cold conditions? ___________________________________________________________
- What factors associated with your workplace or job may increase the risks of working in the cold? (Exposure to high winds, proximity to open water, etc.)
- What medical conditions are associated with cold conditions?
- What are the symptoms of frostbite? ___________________________________________________________
- What can you do to help a coworker who may be suffering from mild hypothermia?
- How can you prevent conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia from occurring?
- What protective clothing and equipment are used on the job to guard against the cold?
- What else can you do to protect yourself from the cold?
- What advice would you give a new coworker about working in the cold?
Use this training exercise to ensure that employees understand the hazards posed by cold conditions and are ready to take preventive actions. Responses to the questions can be made by either individuals or small groups. After allowing individuals or groups time to compose answers to the questions, convene all trainees for a discussion.
Questions 1 and 2 are specific to the workplace and potentially to individual jobs. However, for question 2, certain answers are likely, such as exposure to winds, slick footing caused by snow or ice, or exposure to cold in refrigerated environments.
Questions 3, 4, and 5 ask trainees about recognizing and responding to medical conditions associated with cold. Keep in mind that the current session is awareness-level training; training in first aid by a certified provider is recommended. Use the questions to gauge trainees’ basic understanding of conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite, and, especially, when they should get help if a condition arises. Ensure trainees know who to call in case a medical professional is needed.
Questions 6, 7, and 8 ask about preventive measures. Ensure that the discussion includes engineering and administrative controls, as well as PPE. Talk about company policies regarding scheduling of breaks or rotation of workers if the trainees do not bring it up on their own. Make sure the discussion is thorough and covers all relevant information and related issues. For instance, this is a good opportunity to remind trainees that being physically fit will help them withstand cold.
Question 9 asks for advice for new workers: What are the most important things to keep in mind about working in cold conditions? This is a good chance to see what information the trainees are taking with them from this session.
Keep in mind that these questions have more than one right answer. Allow ample time for discussion and do not cut it short.
Make sure that each trainee provides an answer to at least one question. Call on those who seem hesitant. Everyone needs to be involved in this exercise.
Optionally, you may collect written answers for review before or after the discussion.
Why It Matters
- Hypothermia is a serious medical condition that is potentially fatal to workers. While most cases of hypothermia occur in air temperatures between 30°F and 50°F, significant hypothermia can occur in air temperatures as high as 65°F or water as warm as 72°F.
- If a worker’s body temperature falls below 95°F it is considered an emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
- Frostbite may lead to tissue death, amputation, or permanent inability to use an appendage.
- A worker may not be aware he or she is suffering from frostbite due to numbness in the affected area. Not seeking medical care and remaining in the cold environment can lead to more serious injuries.
- Similarly, low body temperature can impair a worker’s judgment so that he or she does not realize they are suffering symptoms of a cold-related disorder.
- Dehydration is fairly common for workers in cold conditions because workers tend to feel less thirsty and not drink enough.
- Workers can be more susceptible to cold-related illnesses and injuries depending on their age, health, and medical conditions.