‘Tis the Season to Stay Safe
Christmas time is upon us and even in this era of uncertainty and chaos, we can find joy and cheer in the midst of this holiday season. Setting up decorations around the house, stringing lights along the eves, lighting a yuletide log in the fireplace, or if no fireplace is available, playing one of those burning fireplace videos on YouTube; all of these activities can bring a little spark of Christmas to your home. And of course let’s not forget the biggest holiday tradition of them all, sitting with the whole family around the TV watching that classic Christmas movie… Die Hard.
And depending on your perspective, or geography, one of the joys of the Christmas season is the onset of winter and the nip in the air that it brings. The cold against our skin makes us want to snuggle with loved ones and drink a hot beverage in a tacky ceramic mug adorned with snowmen, while the oven warms the house and the smell of cookies flows into every room. However, that winter nip also brings with it a few added dangers that we need to be aware of so that we can keep enjoying the season while staying safe and healthy.
What to Look Out For
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the most common winter injury is falling. Depending on where you live, snow and ice create very slippery conditions which make it difficult for both walking and driving, and it is suggested that you wear proper shoes for the weather. Rubber soled shoes with lots of grip work best, especially if these shoes also provide adequate ankle support. Avoid wearing shoes with flat, hard surfaces which are prone to slippage, like heels or dress shoes. Keep a short stride, avoid taking long steps, and don’t be in a rush. Give yourself plenty of extra time to get where you need to go.
And even if you don’t live in an area that get’s much snow or ice, there are still some winter dangers to look out for. Exposure to cold weather brings along with it susceptibility to hypothermia and frostbite. Both of these cold-weather dangers can sneak up on you if you are not planning ahead for them.
The CDC says that Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. And when exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly. This makes hypothermia especially dangerous because a person may not know that it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it. And while it is assumed hypothermia only happens in extreme cold conditions, it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40 degrees) if a person becomes chilled from rain or sweat.
Frostbite is another cold-weather danger that can take you by surprise. While hypothermia is a condition involving your core temperature, frostbite involves the freezing of skin tissue due to lower circulation in your extremities like your fingers, toes, nose, and ears. As your body tries to conserve heat at its core, it pulls blood from your extremities, leaving them vulnerable to the freezing cold.
Both of these winter dangers can be mitigated by planning ahead. And whether you are taking your family for a play day outside, or your job requires you to spend long times exposed to cold temperatures, here are a few steps to keep warm and safe in cold weather.
How to Protect Yourself From Cold Weather
Wear several layers of loose clothing for better insulation; take layers off if you begin to sweat and put them back on when you cool down. Inner layers should be wool to wick away moisture; synthetic fabrics can work for this purpose as well, but should be avoided in some work environments involving flammable materials, as synthetic fabrics are not fire resistant and will in fact cause serious burn injury by melting into the skin. Along with multiple inner layers, outer layers of clothing should be chosen that are wind and water-resistant to help keep out the elements.
Protect the ears, face, and hands by wearing hats, gloves, and face coverings. Be sure to wear appropriate versions of these accessories in accordance to your environment. Wearing gloves or hats that are too thin, or don’t cover all the areas of the hands or head, will do little good in colder conditions. And it can be overlooked that wearing articles of clothing, or accessories, that are too thick or too heavy, can cause you to sweat, or even make you want to remove those items, exposing you to the cold environment and thus making themselves ineffective.
And don’t forget that keeping your feet dry is one of the most important things you can do to not only stay comfortable in cold weather, but to also stay safe and healthy. Multiple layers of socks can help insulate your feet from the cold, but if they get wet they will only act to trap that moisture around your feet. Be sure to choose shoes or boots that are water-resistant, or even consider wrapping a layer of water resistant material around your socks, like a plastic bag, to add a barrier of protection from any wetness that may penetrate your footwear. Dry feet will keep you happy and healthy.
Enjoy the Season
Colder winter weather is part of what makes Christmas a wonderful and whimsical season to enjoy. Whether there are mounds of beautiful snow on your doorstep, or the glistening of cold morning dew on your palm trees, the Christmas chill can put a smile on your face and bring out the child inside. Just be sure that during your winter frolicking you are prepared for the potential dangers that it can also bring. We hope that these few, simple safety tips can help you, your family, and your worksite stay safe and healthy during the winter chill, and that you continue to find enjoyment in this time wherever you are, and whomever you are with.
Merry Christmas, from Pro Safety & Rescue.
CDC Natural Disasters and Severe Weather
CDC NIOSH PDF for Preventing Cold-related Illness, Injury, and Death among Workers
CDC PDF for Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety
Contact us to see how we can help keep you and your teams equipped for the cold weather.