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Stay Safe this Winter

Julie Copeland

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As we approach the end of 2014 and face the cold days of January, I feel it's appropriate to share once again some information on the challenges of winter and the importance of staying safe.

Winters can be a challenge for many of us from a health and safety standpoint. And it seems like Be safe when shoveling snow.every year we lose more people to cardiac arrest in the winter performing strenuous activity – like shoveling.

In the northeast, we could be in for a long winter, which could lead to a lot of digging out.

Did you know that the risk of having a heart attack for some goes up as they shovel? This is especially true for those in poor physical condition or those with existing heart disease or a personal history of stroke.

Colder weather might increase vessel constriction and raise blood pressure. This coupled with the widely held belief that people generally don't live as healthy in winter as they do in summer, and they don't eat as well and don't exercise as much can lead to serious trouble.

The combination of colder temperatures and physical activity increases the workload on the heart. People outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting heavy snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person’s heart.

The American Heart Association recently shared some ideas on making snow removal safer. Whether you are responsible for shoveling snow at work or home, here is information worth sharing:

  • Give yourself a break. Take frequent rest breaks during shoveling so you don’t overstress your heart. Pay attention to how your body feels during those breaks.

  • Don’t eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart. 

  • Use a small shovel or consider a snow thrower. The act of lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure acutely during the lift. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times, than to lug a few huge shovelfuls of snow. When possible, simply push the snow.

  • Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body, but remember this: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1

  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol may increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under in the cold.

  • Consult a doctor. If you have a medical condition, don’t exercise on a regular basis or are middle aged or older, meet with your doctor prior to exercising in cold weather.

  • Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers of warm clothing, which traps air between layers forming a protective insulation. Wear a hat because much of your body’s heat can be lost through your head. 

  • Learn CPR. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Hands-only CPR makes it easier than ever to save a life. If an adult suddenly collapses, call 9-1-1 and begin pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest until help arrives.

As reported by OSHA, approximately 400 workplace deaths from cardiac arrest occur each year. What makes that number even more frightening is that recent studies indicate that retention rates for CPR are extremely low. In fact as recently reported, only one third of trained participants could effectively perform CPR six months after initial training. Rates of CPR training retention drop off dramatically after just weeks.

The National Safety Council recommends that all adults learn CPR and first aid techniques in order to be competent to give assistance when injuries occur. Organizations should provide formal and ongoing training. They should provide incentives to learn and retain this knowledge, and make learning first aid/CPR a part of new employee training.

In addition to increasing first aid retention skills, ongoing training can foster a safety aware environment and culture and that nurtures confidence for responding effectively and quickly during a medical emergency situation.

Ongoing safety training is so important to saving lives and ultimately to your business. The goal of ongoing safety training is to create a level of awareness about safety issues and how to deal with these issues as well as instituting a culture that nurtures confidence in being able to respond quickly and effectively during an emergency.

Many accidents in the workplace – if not all of them – are 100% preventable through ongoing safety training efforts and using the proper protective equipment. When you take the time to follow through on providing training and equipment you greatly improve the well-being of your workers and protect your company from incurring expensive workers’ compensation costs.

To learn more about signing up your workers for ongoing safety training, call 800-523-5367 or click here to speak with a workplace safety specialist at Arbill

We encourage all of our clients and friends to lead a healthy and active life regardless of the time of year... and to be safe in the workplace and at home. Please consider the tips shared by the American Heart Association the next time you reach for a shovel… or deal with the snow.

Have a safe day!

Topics: Cold Stress/Winter Weather Safety

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