By Aerica Bjurstrom, Kewaunee County UW-Extension Agriculture Educator
Winter has settled in to stay, and now is the time for some cold weather safety reminders. While working outside, it may be easy to ignore signs of cold stress on your body. Be aware of signs of hypothermia. Signs of mild hypothermia may include being alert, but shivering. During moderate hypothermia, shivering may stop and body temperature will drop. More severe hypothermia may include the loss of coordination with items in the hand, and being confused or disorientated. Severe signs include the inability to walk or stand, dilated pupils, slowed breathing and pulse.
Some farm workers have never experienced a Wisconsin winter before. Employers should train workers to recognize the workplace conditions that can lead to cold stress; to learn what the symptoms of cold stress are and how to prevent them, and what to do for those affected; and how to select proper work attire for cold conditions. Remind employees to use caution around ice as well. People and cattle can easily fall and hurt themselves on ice covered concrete.
Employers should also monitor employees and offer more frequent breaks in warm, dry areas; schedule works during the warmest hours of the day, encourage the buddy system; provide warm, sweet non-alcoholic beverages; and provide radiant heaters if possible.
A good way to determine what you will need to keep you and your employees warm is to make a list of all the tasks that will be worked outside or in other cold environments, and discuss with your workers any safety concerns you, or they may have. Be prepared for winter storms that may inhibit work, or employees from leaving work. Post reminders about cold weather safety and share them with your employees.
Discussing cold weather safety and plans for winter storms will help prepare everyone for a safe winter.