Winter is here again and we all know construction work doesn’t freeze when the mercury begins to decline. Working in the cold can be dangerous if you don’t take precautions to keep your body warm and dry on a construction site. Follow these “10 Tips for Heating on the Construction Site” so that you and your employees can enjoy a safe, warm and productive winter. Know the signs of cold stress Cold stress occurs when the body is unable to warm itself and can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when your body cannot heat the body as quickly as it is losing it and the core body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Common symptoms include shivering, shallow breathing, confusion, loss of coordination, drowsiness, slurred speech, and a slow and weak pulse. If a person has symptoms of hypothermia, it is necessary to restore their basal temperature. Remove all wet clothes and move the person to a warm, dry place. Use blankets, extra clothes, and heating pads to increase her temperature. If they are conscious, they should be given warm fluids to drink. CPR should be given immediately to a person with unconscious hypothermia, or someone who has no pulse or is not breathing, and 911 should be called for emergency medical service. Frostbite occurs when body tissues freeze and is most common in the extremities, as these areas tend to have reduced blood flow when exposed to cold temperatures. Color changes in the affected tissues and loss of normal feeling are typical signs of frostbite. Re-warm the frostbitten areas with warm water. Avoid rubbing the areas to warm, and do not use heating pads to try to warm the affected areas. Call 911 and get medical treatment right away if you are affected by frostbite. Remember, safety (meeting) First, hold a safety meeting or tool talk on days when the outlook requires extremely cold temperatures to raise the risks of cold stress, hypothermia and frostbite in the home. Ensure that construction workers wear appropriate cold clothing. Ask your workers to meet each other frequently because hypothermia can cause confusion, which may not realize that they are suffering from it, but it also leads to other accidents. Dress-up in layers The general rule here is to layering at least three layers when working in the cold on a construction site. The main layer of clothing should be a moisture-wicking fabric to draw sweat away from your body. The second layer should be made of a breathable material that helps insulate the body, such as wool. The outer layer should protect you from the elements. That means something that’s both windproof and waterproof. You want to make sure your layers fit well and allow a full range of motion without exposing you to the cold. Cover your head While it is a myth that most of your body heat is wasted through your head, there is no excuse for not keeping your head warm. A good knit hat or ski mask to keep your ears and face warm. Get a good fleece lining that covers the back of your neck when working with your hard hat. Don’t forget a ChapStick or lip balm to prevent your lips from drying out and chapping. Limbs Protection We are talking about hands and feet. It tends to get cold first because when the body temperature starts to drop, the brain constricts the blood vessels in our extremities in order to increase blood flow in our heart. A good pair of mittens with wool socks and insulated shoes can keep all figures cute and warm. Steel-toe shoes act as a “cold tub,” so consider getting a pair of compound toe shoes for the winter months. A pair of hand warmers in your pockets is a great way to get warm when wearing gloves might not be an option. There are a number of disposable and reusable hand warmers on the market. Zippo offers an excellent hand-held reusable fireplace that you can find at nearly any sporting goods store. Stay dry. If your clothes get wet and the moisture stays on your skin, your body temperature will decrease. This is why it is important for your base layer to remove moisture from your body, and for the outer layer to be waterproof to prevent moisture from entering. It’s also a good idea to have spare socks, gloves, hats, hard hat liners, etc. on hand so that you can change them if they get wet. Include Your Workspace This is clearly not always an option for every type of building and every job site. Enclosing a job site can be as simple as gluing plastic sheeting over openings, such as open doorways and window openings, prefab modular panel systems, and tents. This will prevent winds from entering and preventing heat from escaping from the workplace. Feel the (synthetic) heat Get a good electric heater if you work indoors, or one of the large propane heaters that emit radiant heat, to congregate around when working outdoors. If enclosing a workspace or providing heaters is not an option, consider setting up a heated trailer or temporary building on site so that workers can take breaks from wind, cold, and heating for a few minutes throughout the day. Provide something warm to your body Make sure you have a thermos of the hot beverage of your choice on hand to warm you up. Have a good hot meal at lunchtime or bring an extra thermos full of soup. Your body spends a lot of energy when working in the cold, so it is important to conserve its energy. Consider eating an extra meal during the day, or double servings on cold days. Keep moving. The body generates heat through movement. It is important to keep moving when you are outside in the cold. This shouldn’t be a problem with some of the tough jobs associated with construction work. Of course, if your body movement starts generating a lot of heat it will cause you to sweat which can be as bad as we have already discussed. Try to find this happy medium between enough clothing and enough movement to keep you warm and dry.