Contending with the Cold Weather

Anyone working outdoors can appreciate the change in temperature surging across the Lonestar State and other geographic regions. This sudden barrage of freezing temperatures can seem mythical for the southern region, yet they still demand respect and an understanding of how to safely endure them while in the workplace. 

Various countermeasures can be enacted and include specific procedures. It is important to take the necessary precautions when combating the cold, but the parameters of compliance must be maintained to ensure a safe workplace setting where everyone goes home safely. 

Flame Resistant Clothing 

Those who work in an environment that requires flame-resistant clothing can experience challenges when dealing with colder temperatures. Commonly known as FRs, flame-resistant clothing sports an often hefty price tag. When temperatures plummet, the need for a heavy coat seems far and few between, especially when considering southern work regions. As we have come to realize, the need for that heavy coat still exists. 

To remain compliant, the employee must don a flame-resistant coat which can be found usually for over $200. If that busts the budget, employees can layer with recreational clothing, but that outer layer must be FR. As long as that garment of clothing visible to the public is FR, one can sport six different NFL team sweatshirts underneath if their heart desires and room allows. 

Most will find that the FR coat seems more realistic. Although expensive, a great way to justify the purchase is to consider a warm FR coat as just another tool needed to complete one’s job. We all know that we get what we pay for when it comes to a tool. That same mindset can justify the purchase of the versatile FR coat. 

Preventing Exposure 

When Hurricane Katrina dealt its devastating blow to Louisiana, many residents of New Orleans found themselves trapped by rising floodwaters. Being wet and exposed to gusting winds resulted in many suffering from hypothermia, and that was in August!

The cold temperatures and blowing wind pounding bare skin have devastating effects. Preventing exposure can be handled with gloves, neck sleeves, and even watchman caps that cover the ears and keep them warm. Making sure all skin is protected from the elements can result in a proactive prevention method against exposure. 

Planning the Work 

There is no doubt that pre-job planning plays a vital role in job performance and success. When considering the effects of the cold temperatures, it is conceivable to state that its effects should be documented on the JSA as a hazard. 

Just like any risk assessment, cold weather protection methods should go through the process of determining if it can be avoided, if engineering controls can offer protection, how administrative controls can offer protection, and lastly, how PPE can offer that final layer of protection. 

If the work can be postponed until the temperatures are more desirable, then that would be a proactive method of approach. If the work must be completed, specific procedures can be devised and PPE worn. The key is conducting this survey early on in order to correctly plan the work. 

Other methods of protection can be used if the work must be completed during temperatures of displeasure. Warming areas can be established. Just as companies take precautionary methods against extreme heat, they can supply trailers with heaters or even establish company vehicles as destinations of warming breaks. 

Partnering Tactics 

The key to success in any recipe is making sure all ingredients are used. When one forgets an important spoonful of this or that, the taste is tainted. The same can be said for battling the cold weather. 

Soliciting key personnel for pre-job planning meetings benefits from a robust and unique sampling of what hazards could arise and how these should be managed. The more participants available, a higher success rate can be had. 

This planning measure defines the countermeasures. It is here that the need for additional FR clothing can be established. While studying P&IDs, an existing heated room at the jobsite can be established as a warming station, or the real estate can be established for portable heating units. Each job could mandate a different approach, but the pre-job meeting process works in conjunction with all avenues needed. Taking the time to identify the methods to avoid the ill effects of cold can result in both a safe and proactive workday. 

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with nine years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and Masonry Magazine. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 [email protected]

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