24 Jan Winter Hazards On and Off the Job
Young workers need to be aware of workplace dangers regardless of the season. That said, winter adds a whole other layer to the situation: Snow. And ice. And cold. Below are several areas worth discussing with your young worker.
Frostbite. Most of us associate frostbite with isolated mountainside crash landings and climbing mishaps. The fact is, on days that may not appear terribly cold and that have a high wind-chill factor, frostbite can set in, and in as little as thirty minutes. They need to know that the first sign of frostbite is frostnip. It’s the first stage of frostbite when skin becomes numb and white. This is the time to take action before it gets any worse. They need to get out of the cold immediately to reverse this condition.
If this happens to them at work when they’ve been asked to perform a task outdoors, they need to know they can exercise their worker rights; to approach their supervisors, tell them of their concerns and get out of the cold, even temporarily.
Dehydration. That’s right. While we associate hot weather season as the time we’re most predisposed to hydration that is not the case. If one is working outdoors doing strenuous work while wearing layers of warm clothing, working up a sweat doesn’t take long. Without drinking fluids regularly, the results are virtually identical to those we may succumb to on a scorching hot summer day. These include dizziness, cramping, extreme fatigue and sometimes fainting. If operating any kind of equipment this can lead to a variety of very bad outcomes. Just like hockey players getting off the ice and reaching for their water bottles, our children must know that they need to do the same on a regular basis.
Icy work surfaces. While it sounds obvious, young workers just don’t have the experience to know that the scaffold they mounted with confidence all summer is now frozen and a slip hazard waiting to happen. This is a time of year in which they must personally inspect any areas that they are expected to walk on, especially so if they are working at heights or other hazardous places.
So what can you do as a parent? The first thing you can do is ask questions. And listen. Has the cold weather affected their work conditions? Are there any spots that are particularly icy? If those spots are at heights is there anything that can be done to make them safer? Do they ever get hot at work? Do they take regular breaks and hydrate with something to drink? If they feel dizzy do they try to work through it or do they take a break? Do they have to work outdoors in extreme weather? Do they understand what frostbite is and how to recognize that they need to take action and get out of the cold? All of these of course apply on and off the job.
Finally, do they understand that they don’t have to work in dangerous situations? It is important that we as parents and adult influencers of young workers let them know that they have a right to safe working conditions; that the law is on their side and so are we. That we will support them every step of the way so they come home from work – possibly chilly – but healthy and safe.