How to Stay Safe During Record-Cold Weather

 

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MADISON – Wisconsin Safety Council – the state’s leading provider of safety training and products – reminds all Wisconsinites to take extra precautions during this week’s record-cold temperatures. While Midwest winters can lead to a variety of dangerous situations, it is important to be prepared for both snowy conditions and low temperatures.

Temperatures throughout Wisconsin will fall below -20 degrees on Wednesday, with wind chills as low as -60 degrees. As the temperatures plummet far below zero, Wisconsin Safety Council urges everyone to take the necessary steps to stay safe this week and throughout winter.

Tips to Stay Safe During Cold Weather:

  • Check the temperature and limit your time outdoors if it’s very cold, wet or windy
  • Bundle up in several layers of loose clothing
  • Wear mittens rather than gloves
  • Cover your ears with a warm hat (Up to 40 percent of body heat can be lost through the head)
  • Wear socks that will keep your feet warm and dry, and wear insulated boots
  • Keep a change of dry clothing with you in case your clothes become wet

Driving Tips for Cold Weather:

  • Keep your gas tank filled and ensure your vehicle has fresh antifreeze
  • Ensure your spare tire is inflated and your vehicle has a wheel wrench and tripod jack
  • Travel with a shovel in your vehicle
  • Have an emergency kit in your vehicle that includes: jumper cables, a tool kit, flashlight with extra batteries, reflective triangle, first aid kit, nonperishable foods, matches in a waterproof container, blankets, mittens, socks and hats
  • Ensure all ice is scraped off your vehicle’s windows before traveling
  • Keep your windshield washer fluid filled

Common Cold Weather Dangers:

Frostbite

Even skin that is protected can be subject to frostbite. It’s the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold, and it usually occurs on fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. If caught early, it is possible to prevent permanent damage. If not, frostbite can lead to amputation.

Superficial frostbite affects the skin surface, while the underlying tissue remains soft. The skin appears white, waxy or grayish-yellow and is cold and numb.

If the condition is allowed to progress to deep frostbite, all layers of the skin are affected and the outcome likely will be more serious. The skin will become completely numb, blisters may form and eventually the skin tissue dies and turns black.

If you suspect frostbite:

  • Get indoors immediately
  • Seek medical attention
  • Remove constrictive clothing and jewelry that could impair circulation
  • Place dry, sterile gauze between toes and fingers to absorb moisture and keep them from sticking together
  • Elevate the affected area to reduce pain and swelling
  • For superficial frostbite, you may also place the affected area in water that is 100 to 105 degrees until the tissue softens

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature drops below 95 degrees. Severe shivering, one of the first signs of hypothermia, is beneficial in keeping the body warm. But as hypothermia progresses, shivering gives way to drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, shallow breathing, irregular heartbeat, slurred speech, loss of coordination and, eventually, unconsciousness and even death.

If you suspect someone is suffering from hypothermia:

  • Move the victim inside and remove any wet clothing
  • Call for medical attention
  • Add blankets, pillows, towels or newspapers beneath and around the victim
  • Cover the victim’s head
  • Handle the victim gently to avoid cardiac arrest
  • Keep the victim in a horizontal position
  • If necessary, give CPR

For employers who want their teams to be more prepared for emergency situations that can occur in cold weather – and throughout the year – Wisconsin Safety Council offers training courses on Emergency Preparedness and First Aid. Click the link below for a full calendar of safety training courses:

Wisconsin Safety Council Training Calendar

For more information about staying safe during cold weather, please visit the following links:

OSHA – Preventing Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities During Winter Storms
National Safety Council – Be Prepared for Winter Driving
National Safety Council – Frostbite and Hypothermia

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For more information, please contact:
Nick Novak, 608.258.3400

Wisconsin Safety Council (WSC) is the state’s leading provider of safety training and products, serving members of all sizes and every sector of the economy. WSC provides scheduled training programs across Wisconsin, in addition to private, customized training for your individual company. It is also your number one resource for safety products ranging from first aid training materials to emergency defibrillators. WSC is the official state chapter of the National Safety Council and is a proud program of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.