The temperature atop Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire hit 25 degrees below zero last Monday. And, with wind gusts over 100 miles per hour, the wind chill stood at minus-65 to minus 70 degrees. The scary part, pointed out by the weather observers stationed there, is this – it’s not even winter yet!
Yes, it’s been getting colder for the last few weeks but one thing is for sure -- it's going to get colder. Maybe not Mt. Washington cold, but definitely colder. It's a fact of life that many workers have to deal with. For some workers it may be a minor nuisance because they're not out all day. For others, it could cost them a finger or toe from frostbite. In extreme cases, some workers lives will be threatened.
The amount of protection a worker requires depends on the amount of exposure to the cold. With any employee safety concern, you should evaluate the workplace conditions to accurately assess the situation. From there, proper training should be done for all employees, including monitoring their actions and taking corrective actions when needed. This is your best means of incident prevention.
It’s also useful to contact an expert on the topic. Here at MEMIC, we are fortunate to have a cold weather expert on staff.
Peter Koch, a MEMIC Safety Specialist, has been working with ski areas who are insured with MEMIC for years. Before that, he worked in the ski industry. An obvious exposure these employers are faced with is working in some extreme cold conditions. Much of the information Peter uses to train ski industry employees can be applied to numerous other jobs that require employees to be outdoors. Here's a newsletter that Pete put together (Download The Cold Challenge newsletter ). Not only is it useful for supervisors to evaluate their workplaces, but it is also a great safety meeting topic. And, of course, it is important to note that knowledge of cold weather exposure is equally important for anyone participating in outdoor recreation during wintertime.