Some products require a cold storage facility to prevent spoilage and damage. A few examples include artwork, biopharmaceutical products, perishable food and perishable nutrient products. Employees working in artificially cold environments, such as refrigerated warehouses, are prone to cold stress, a condition that drives down skin temperature and eventually the internal temperature. When the body cannot warm itself, life-threatening cold-related medical conditions will occur. As a business owner, you need to protect workers from cold stress.
Here are five suggestions to help your employees stay safe while working in cold conditions:
- Do Cold Stress Safety Training
Supervisors and employees should go through cold stress safety training, so that they can properly identify the danger signs of cold-related illnesses and injuries. Supervisors should keep a close eye for signs of cold stress and stop workers who may be feeling extremely uncomfortable. What’s more, workers should let their supervisors know if they are not feeling well.
- Take Breaks Every Couple of Hours
Breaks are required for any working environment, but become increasingly vital when working in incredibly cold conditions. Ideally, employees should take breaks of 10 minutes once every two hours.
When workers take a break, they should leave the cold area and move to a warm one, preferably a heated room. If you don’t have this, look into commercial heater rental, pick a big room and use it as a warming area. The goal of these breaks is to help warm the body, which can cut down the risk of cold-related health problems.
- Offer Sweet and Warm Beverages
When you hear the word dehydration, the effects of hot and humid weather conditions typically come to mind. Becoming dehydrated in a cold environment, however, is possible. As a matter of fact, dehydration can occur quicker in cold temperatures, as the body is consuming more energy to stay warm.
When you’re cold, warm beverages can help raise the temperature of your body. Sports drinks with electrolytes and sugar water are ideal when you’re working in a cold place. When the body begins to shut down because of cold stress, digesting food becomes more difficult. The stomach, however, can still absorb sugars and water.
So, make sure that your employees have access to warm beverages. When thinking about what warehouse feature to add, consider setting up a beverage station to prevent workers from dehydrating.
If you’re going to add beverages, make sure that no one sneaks in alcohol. Apart from the fact that no one should be drinking on the job, alcohol can cause the body to lose heat at a quicker rate.
The same goes for warm beverages that contain caffeine, such as tea and coffee. Although drinking them might seem like a great idea, caffeine pushes the body to produce more urine, which bumps up the likelihood of dehydration.
- Make Sure Employees Change Their Clothes If They’re Wet
Damp clothing can cause the body temperature to dip quickly, placing the employee working in the cold environment at greater risk of injury or illness. Water, because of its density, pulls heat away from the body 25 times quicker than air.
Sweating is how the body stays cool and keeps excess heat away, but in a cold environment, you need to keep your body as warm as possible. Although physical activity helps keep the body temperature warm, wet clothing raises heat loss through evaporation and conduction.
Employees, therefore, should make sure to change their damp clothes as soon as possible. They should carry cold-weather gear, such as jackets, gloves, socks and extra clothing. Dressing in synthetic, wool or silk clothing, as well as putting on layers of moisture-wicking clothes, can help regulate body heat.
- Promote the Buddy System
Nobody should work alone in a cold environment. Even the healthiest employee in your team can get sick if they push themselves too hard under unfavorable conditions.
If you’re going to send people to work, make sure that they go in pairs. When employees work in pairs, they can keep an eye on each other, as well as monitor and report for symptoms of cold stress and other negative health conditions.
Also, make sure that you promote the buddy system on your corporate website and social media accounts. If you don’t have either of these, hire an agency to help you create these platforms.
Employers are responsible for keeping their valuable workers safe. They have to take measures to make sure that they’re not overworking themselves or falling victim to hypothermia, frostbite and other health problems caused by cold stress. If you’re going to have your employees work in a cold environment, take note and implement these five best practices in your organization.