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Cold weather offers challenges to local outdoor workers

With Grayson County experiencing an historic, sub-zero cold snap last week, and with the upcoming week offering sub-freezing weather along with precipitation, thoughts turn to those who make their living outside.

Construction, utility, and delivery workers are just a few of the hundreds of outdoor workers toiling away in the bitterly cold weather in Grayson County. When working in the extreme cold, it is important for workers to stay warm, stay productive, and remain safe, while battling back frostbite and hypothermia, which can set in very quickly in extreme temperatures.

John Flores, who works for Federal Express, says preparation is the key to keeping the cold from disrupting his work day.

“Normally I carry a blanket, and keep plenty of fluids in my truck,” Flores said. “I keep warm clothes, because you never know when you’re going to get wet, and I also keep an extra pairs of socks, stuff like that, in my truck.”

With snow and ice blanketing the region, driving in hazardous road conditions can be perilous, and contribute to a drop in production.

 “We get to choose what roads we go down,” Flores said about Fed Ex’s safe driving guidelines. “If the road doesn’t look safe to drive down, we have a weather code we use” to help determine which roads are able to be safely traveled.

Leitchfield Post Master Chris Geary has several mail carriers he oversees, many of who are exposed to the elements while delivering the mail.

”The main thing that my carriers do is dress in layers and make sure that all obvious extremities exposed are covered, Geary said. “Most of my rural carriers stay in the vehicle for much of the day, so they rely heavily on a good heater. The city carriers have a mix of walking and driving on their routes. Their mail trucks have poor heaters (because) most of the vehicles are 20-plus years old, so they take full luxury in delivering in warm places.”

In addition to dressing warm, Geary encourages carriers to not overwork themselves in the cold weather.

"We recommend that they take extra breaks to get warm, eat frequently and always watch for symptoms of frost bite and hypothermia,” Geary said.

Learning how to mentally deal with the cold is also important for carriers, and others who make a living outside.

“But the bottom line is conditioning themselves, and having the mental toughness to work and deal with the extreme temperatures,” Geary state.

According to Labor Works USA, a nationwide industrial staffing company, here are the top 10 cold weather precautions to abide by when working in the cold:
  • Wear three layers of clothing and always layer to protect the head, hands and feet.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, preferably warm and sweet beverages. Cold weather suppresses thirst, and dehydration can occur without proper fluid intake.
  • Increase caloric intake. Working in heavy protective clothing expends more heat, so 10-to-15 percent more calories are required. 
  • Take periodic breaks to warm up, with additional breaks as wind velocity increases or the temperature drops. 
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and medications that inhibit the body's response to cold, or impair judgment. 
  • Avoid the cold if you are becoming exhausted or immobilized, conditions that can accelerate the effects of cold weather. 
  • Shield work areas from drafty or windy conditions. Seek a heated shelter if you have prolonged exposure to a wind chill of 20 degrees or less. 
  • Work during the warmest hours of the day and minimize activities that decrease circulation.
  • Learn the symptoms of cold-related stresses: heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, severe fatigue, drowsiness, and euphoria. 
  • Work in pairs so partners can monitor one another and obtain help quickly in an emergency. 


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Topics : Weather
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Locations : Grayson County
People : John Flores
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