EXCELLENCE IN HSE COMPLIANCE
The Beast from the East has hit the UK and the temperatures externally have plummeted over the last few days.
How will this affect those who have to work externally?
The NHS define frostbite as ‘damage to the skin and tissue caused by freezing temperatures – typically temperatures below -0.55C’. Frostbite commonly effects the extremities such as hands, feet, ears, nose and lips however any part of the body can be effected.
In severe cases of frostbite the blood supply to the tissue is lost causing the tissue to die (gangrene). Surgery will be required to remove the dead tissue or in very severe cases amputation may be required.
If the temperature outside is 1.70C and the wind is blowing at 8kph it would take less than 30 minutes to contract frostbite on exposed skin. This is not really cold so the colder and windier it gets the less time it will take to develop frostbite.
So here is what you can do:
1. Know the conditions – have an understanding of how long individuals can be exposed to specific weather conditions to prevent them developing frostbite. Winter weather can change rapidly with very little warning or notice. Regularly monitor the weather to ensure you can modify your safety strategy.
2. Limit the amount of time workers are exposed – It doesn’t take very long to be seriously afflicted with frostbite, there are many charts and graphs available to calculate time it will take to suffer frostbite, allow time between for workers to return to warm environment. Remember to allow time to safely shut down work and clear away any tools/equipment.
3. Create warming stations – strategically placed warming stations allow workers to gradually raise the temperature of their skin. Warming stations do not have to be too warm as raising the temperature too quickly can result in workers feeling discomfort or pain.
4. Cover body parts – Cover the body parts that can be covered. Wool has great insulating properties. Tight fitting garments can increase the danger of frostbite.
5. Knowing the symptoms of frostbite – recognising the symptoms and intervening before frostbite occurs.
Symptoms of Frostbite
Symptoms of frostbite include:
· Cold skin and prickling feeling
· Feeling of numbness
· Red, white, bluish-white or greyish-yellow skin
· Hard or waxy looking skin
· Clumsiness due to muscle and joint stiffness
· Blistering after rewarming in severe conditions