Keep commercial construction workers healthy in cold weather

    The winter season is here to stay – for at least the next few months.

    Chilly temperatures mean general contractors should take extra precautions to keep workers safe and healthy when they’re exposed to the elements.

    Even in the Southeast and areas like Maryville or Knoxville, cold weather is often accompanied by rain, wintry mix, ice and snow. So where do you begin to keep workers safe? OSHA is a great place to start to learn more about the effects of cold stress on the body. Increased exposure to cold temperatures and gusty wind chills forces heat to leave the body and could result in the following serious conditions:

    Hypothermia – This condition occurs when a person’s regular body temperature drops to 95 degrees or less. The symptoms of mild hypothermia are as simple as mild shivering. More severe hypothermia symptoms include slurred speech, confusion, slow heart rate and loss of consciousness.

    Prevention Train commercial construction workers to know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Take breaks in warm, dry shelters and complete work in shifts and in pairs. If hypothermia is suspected, call 911 and move the worker to a warm, dry place. Cover the body with blankets and if medical assistance is more than 30 minutes away, provide the person with warm, sweetened drinks. Apply heat packs to sides of chest, underarms, neck etc.

    Frostbite – In cases of frostbite, body tissues start to freeze. Hands and feet are especially sensitive to frost bite and injury can occur even when temperatures are above freezing but wind chills are present. Symptoms include numbness and areas where red skin starts to look gray or white.

    Prevention – Layer clothing and wear personal protective equipment such as hats, gloves. If the weather is extremely cold, wear a hat that includes pieces to cover and protect the neck and ears. If frostbite is suspected, loosely cover the area – but do not rub the skin. Do not try to re-warm the area – seek medical attention immediately.

    Trench Foot – This is caused by lengthy exposure to cold, wet environments. If feet are constantly wet, this can even occur in temperatures as warm as 60 degrees. Symptoms include redness, swelling and blisters.

    Prevention – Waterproof boots are required to prevent these cold-weather foot injuries. If trench foot is suspected, remove wet shoes and socks. Elevate your feet and seek medical attention.

    Leon Williams Contractors takes pride in its safety processes for commercial construction workers. To learn more, visit

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