Working in cooler conditions without proper protective clothing may be putting employees at risk of cold stress, contributing to poor productivity in the workplace. People who work outside in cold temperatures, in cold wind or in wet conditions were most at risk, according to the New Zealand Department of Labour’s report Guidelines for the Management of Work in Extremes of Temperature. The report listed several New Zealand working environments with the potential to produce cold stress including “work in refrigerated plant in the food processing industry, diving or outdoor work in winter”.
Workplace safety equipment supplier Pryme New Zealand is urging workplaces to take better precaution for its workers and minimise the risk of serious health problems by keeping employees warm and productive. Indoor workplaces also needed good insulation and heating. Working in a cold environment forced the body to work harder to maintain its core temperature, drawing heat from the body and leading to cold stress.
“Cold stress can impair the body’s ability to perform manual and mental tasks, with muscles stiffening and losing strength and fingers losing dexterity and sensitivity. There is also reduced mental alertness, leading to accidents in the workplace", says Pryme's managing director, Terry Houlihan.
“Workers can also develop cold stress conditions including trench foot, frost bite, frost nip, water immersion or in rarer cases, hypothermia, which occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 35.5 degrees (oral) or 36 degrees (rectal).”
The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 states that employers must provide and maintain a safe working environment for all its employees and be able to identify and control hazards. Under the act, employers must ensure Safe Work Practices by ensuring all work in cold conditions is under constant supervision. The act also states that new employees should not be required to work full-time in the cold until they have become accustomed to working conditions as well as the personal protective clothing they are required to wear.
Pryme New Zealand distributes quality N-Ferno® work wear products designed with specially formulated fabrics to ensure multi-climate comfort and protection.
“Over 50 per cent of heat loss is through the head so headwear likes N-Ferno’s® Extreme Series Winter Liner with thermal lining should be worn in cold environments”, says Terry.
“Footwear should be felt-lined, rubber-bottomed or leather-topped with removable thermal insoles. If work needs to be performed with bare hands for more than 10 to 20 minutes, special precautions need to be taken to keep hands warm such as using a warm air blower, a hand warming pack from N-Ferno® or insulated handles on tools.”
The N-Ferno ®range includes hand warming packs, head warming gear and warming vests.