Personal threats from winter weather

  • Published
  • By By Patrick Hansen, 75th Air Base Wing Safety

HILL AIR FORCE BASE – Winter isn’t giving way to spring just yet and that means harmful effects of cold weather are still with us but can be avoided.

Hypothermia happens when the body cannot completely offset heat loss and the drop in internal body core temperature reaches 95 degrees or below. Such heat loss can be extremely dangerous and can lead to death, particularly for elderly people.

Some initial signs are clumsiness, disorientation, and drowsiness.

If you are administering first aid to someone showing signs of hypothermia, warm the victim’s body around the ribs and heart first to increase their core temperature, not the extremities.

If the person is conscious, give them a warm, sweet, nonalcoholic drink and ultimately seek emergency medical attention.

Frostbite pain is real and strikes about 10,000 people every year in America.

The old wives’ tale that says you should treat frostbite by rubbing the area with snow or soaking it in cold water is wrong. The affected areas need to be warmed as quickly as possible, taking care to not scald the area.

Like burns, frostbite can be ranked by degrees of severity. In the first-degree, the skin looks blistered and red. It feels hot and is accompanied by a stinging pain.

Second-degree and third-degree frostbite are progressively more severe and affect deeper skin layers. Pain and damage are also greater and most lasting.

The most severe, fourth degree, affects all the way to and includes bone.

Except for very mild cases, frostbite should be treated as soon as possible.

Wear layers of clothing, avoid alcohol, and avoid nicotine if you expect to be exposed to cold weather.

Workers using vibrating tools during cold weather are exposed to additional hazards.

Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) causes changes in the sensation of the fingers due to repeated use of vibrating tools, especially in cold weather. These changes can be permanent.

Preventing and treating this condition varies greatly based on the work being performed, conditions and the actual worker.

Workers using jackhammers and saws or cutting, grinding and compacting tools are at the highest risk.

Prevention is possible through limiting exposure, rotating work tasks and keeping your hands warm and dry while maintaining a loose a grip while safely using this equipment.

If you start to feel any tingling, numbness or weakness—stop your work, notify your supervisor and if the symptoms persist, seek medical attention.

Don’t become complacent as the weather begins to warm. Keep winter safety in mind and watch out for those around you.