Outdoor maintenance in cold temperatures can pose a real threat. Being unprepared or under-equipped means risking illness or injury when exposed to winter weather. The best facility managers create a plan to minimize the effects of extreme weather.
Staying safe and protected while working outside – removing snow, cleaning windows, completing outdoor repairs, and beyond – is important. In cold temperatures, spending extended periods of time outside can result in “cold stress,” which happens when weather conditions cause someone’s external temperature to drop, eventually lowering their internal temperature, resulting in hypothermia or frostbite – Facility Cleaning & Maintenance writes.
Winter means keeping our teams warm, dry and safe
There are several factors to consider when prioritizing protection during outdoor work:
- Wherever possible, use outdoor huts as a place to warm up or place heaters in enclosed spaces to keep the air warm. Depending on the work, tents or tarps can offer shelter from precipitation and the wind.
- Create a break schedule to warm up between work. Getting indoors or even out of the elements for a few minutes could lessen the risk of exposure and offer a chance to regulate body temperature.
- Dress appropriately by wearing loose layers to encourage the body to trap heat and keep warm. Avoid overdressing, as it may cause the body to sweat, which cools and freezes as the day progresses. Fabrics like wool, polyester fleece, and polypropylene retain warmth, even after they get wet. Cotton and goose down stay warm if they stay dry, but as soon as they become moist, they lose the power to insulate, detracting from their protection.
- Keep extremities warm with hats, and face and hand coverings. Mittens are not always practical for detailed work, but by layering gloves under the mittens, you can take them on and off as required.
- It’s not just about staying warm, there is also the issue of transportation from job to job through the ice and snow. If you’re travelling to more than one location, having a flexible schedule simplifies the process when the weather gets too extreme.
- Working in pairs means that team members can keep an eye on one another and check for signs of cold stress. Catching symptoms early means they can be addressed quickly before becoming a severe illness or injury.
Stay safe and protected by being proactive and prepared, using the proper tools and equipment, and including education as an essential part of your outdoor maintenance plan.