A farmer’s job is never done. Even in the winter, the work doesn’t stop while you repair machinery and fix potential hazards as you prepare for the next season. Winter in Wisconsin can bring extreme temperatures and unpredictable weather conditions that can change on short notice. When you are outside, use these tips to stay safe and healthy on the farm in the cold winter weather.
Wear Proper Clothing
- Dress in layers. It’s important to start the day with your body warm. While working throughout the day you may warm up and can shed a layer. OSHA recommends at least 3 layers, including a base layer such as thermal wear to keep moisture away from the body and an outer layer that is rain and wind protectant.
- Wear appropriate hand coverings for the task you are performing, whether that be mittens, gloves, or work gloves. Ideally, find gloves with good insulation and flexibility. Depending on the wind chill, frostbite can occur in as little as 10 to 30 minutes on exposed skin.
- Remember a hat that covers your ears. Almost half of your body heat is lost through your head and neck. Cover it up!
- Wear insulated and waterproof boots to keep your feet warm and dry. Make sure boots have proper traction to avoid slips and falls on icy surfaces. Depending on your work, it may be best to not wear steel toe boots in the winter as they don’t conduct the cold as much, therefore your feet are likely to stay warmer. In addition, you can add hand and foot warmers if needed for extra warmth.
Listen to your body and take breaks when you need. Go inside and warm up, have a snack or drink a warm beverage. When working in the cold weather, eat foods that are high in protein which will give your body more energy to keep warm throughout the day in the cold temperatures. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and avoid beverages with caffeine and alcohol.
Be Aware of Cold Stress
What is cold stress? Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature, and eventually the internal body temperature. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and permanent tissue damage may result. Types of cold stress include: trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia.
Symptoms of cold stress can include shivering, confusion, slurred speech, heart rate/breathing slow, and loss of consciousness. Outdoor workers exposed to cold and windy conditions are at a higher risk of cold stress. Train employees on the signs of cold stress and what to do in each situation so they can monitor themselves and their co-workers.
To prevent cold stress, the best thing you can do is to prepare for working in cold conditions by wearing appropriate clothing, taking breaks, eating nutritiously and hydrating, as mentioned above. If possible, try to prioritize the jobs that need to get done based on the weather conditions.