To stay safe when working outdoors in colder months, workers should be sure to dress properly for the weather. This includes layers of clothing made of wicking materials, a warm waterproof coat, a hat and appropriate gloves.
Workers also must be alert for signs of frostbite. According to the National Safety Council, the two classifications of frostbite are:
Superficial frostbite, in which the skin feels cold and numb. The surface of the skin will have a white waxy look, with grayish-yellow patches in affected areas. The skin will feel stiff to the touch, although underlying tissue feels soft when depressed.
Deep frostbite also causes affected areas to feel cold and hard. Unlike superficial frostbite, the underlying tissue feels solid and cannot be depressed. Large blisters may appear on the skin after rewarming.
The extent of frostbite damage will be difficult to determine until hours after thawing. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a co-worker, the council recommends:
- Get the victim out of the cold and into a warm place immediately.
- Remove any constructive clothing or jewelry items that could impair circulation.
- Place dry, sterile gauze between fingers and toes to absorb moisture and keep them from sticking together.
- Slightly elevate affected areas to reduce pain and swelling.