What’s it Like Working in the Cold and Snow?
At On The Road Truck Repair, we provide very flexible schedules for our mechanics. Some enjoy working in the snow, and others don’t. This article is here to help you out with some tips for when you work in cold temperatures — from our very own mechanics.
In addition to our mechanics, another great resource is Workplace Safety North<sup>TM</sup>, an independent not-for-profit organization based in Northern Ontario, Canada, dedicated to preventing illnesses and injuries. When they talk about working in the winter, they stress four rules:
- Dress Properly
- Eat Properly
- Stay Active
- Keep an eye on each other
What Should I Wear When I Work in Cold Temperatures?
Believe it or not, thick layers don’t actually help with the cold; they slow you down. Layers influences a mechanic’s ability to service trucks to the best of their ability. Be sure to wear the right type of clothing to do the job. Remember your hat, wear loose-fitting wool layers, and one really good, warm coat, and you should be fine.
Be prepared for getting wet. That is the area in which simple snow is much better than rain, according to TJ Morris. “If it’s just snowing, your only problem is the cold; but if it’s raining, you’re in trouble.” Keep a good water-resistant jacket in your truck (be sure it fits over your warm coat) and don’t be afraid of rain boots.
Rain and sweat are why you should not wear cotton, as it naturally pulls heat from your body, creating sweat. Sweat will make you just as cold as rain. Good materials are:
- synthetic polyester
- hydrophilic/hydrophopic moisture wicking
Keep in mind that how you layer these fabrics makes a difference, too. For example, most moisture wicking fabrics do a great job as long as all of your layers are moisture wicking.
Does It Matter What I Consume When I Work in Cold Temperatures?
Cold air is dryer than warm air. Most of us know this much. But did you know that cold weather actually alters thirst sensation? This causes us to desire fewer fluids than in warm weather. This leads to dehydration.
The Summit Medical Group in New Jersey recommends six tips to avoid dehydration in the cold.
- Take fluids with you before you leave the house.
- If you don’t feel like drinking water, drink a warm, non-caffeinated drink, such as hot herbal or naturally caffeine-free tea, to help the body stay hydrated.
- Drink often, even if you are not thirsty.
- Remember that certain fluids dehydrate the body. These include alcohol, carbonated drinks, and caffeinated drinks, including energy drinks.
- Monitor the color and amount of urine your body is producing. Your urine should be light yellow or clear. If it is darker, drink more water.
- Familiarize yourself with other common symptoms of dehydration including fatigue, lightheadedness, and even irritability.
Your food intake is also important. DJ McQueen, a senior technician at On The Road Truck Repair, recommends eating 6-8 snacks, rather than two heavy meals during a work shift. “Eating smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day prevents you from becoming sluggish after eating,” DJ tells us. He also loves coming home to a good hot meal. Not only does it give him necessary calories to combat the day’s work, it also warms him up from the inside out. Oh, and don’t forget that cooking warms up the kitchen — and often the whole house!
Doesn’t Work Keep Me Active?
You might think this sounds easy: don’t slack off on the job! Well, that certainly helps. And, as TJ told us earlier, the cold can easily slow us down, even if we are dressed properly, staying hydrated, and eating well. So what are some things to do on the job to make sure you aren’t getting sluggish without realizing it?
- Move Around. Be sure to get up and move in a different way than what your work requires. Walk around, jog in place, do some jumping jacks. Just be sure that you aren’t doing so much that you start to sweat. The point is to keep moving, not to create a situation that is counter-productive.
- Set An Alarm. There has been a lot of publicity over the past several years that people who sit at work should get up and move around for two minutes out of every half hour. That’s good advice for working in the cold, too. Be sure to move around. You’ll be glad.
- Take Warm Breaks. OSHA recommends at least one 10-minute break when the temperature is below -15 degrees every four hours. Matt Gardner, Environmental Health and Safety Manager, encourages these breaks to start much sooner, at least by 0 degrees.
When you work in cold temperatures, it is very important to make sure you keep that blood flowing?
Isn’t the Buddy System for Kids?
We all remember times in our childhoods when a parent, teacher, or some other authority figure would holler, “stick together!” Do you really think any of us has completely outgrown that? On The Road Truck Repair employees work in teams of two. And you should, too. In cold weather, this is even more important so that you can look out for each other. If something goes poorly, it’s best to have backup.
Matt says, “We can all benefit from understanding the signs of hypothermia and frost bite. We are all capable of saving a life.” If you see your workmate shivering uncontrollably, loose their coordination, slur their speech, or if their breathing/heartbeat slows down considerably, take action right away:
- Seek a warm, dry area immediately
- Call 911
- Remove any wet clothing
- Give them a warm, sweetened beverage (still no alcohol or caffeine)
Hopefully you will never encounter a situation of hypothermia, but being prepared is always good. The Prepared has a great list of recommended items to keep in your truck at all times in case of an emergency, as well.
Do Frozen Parts Affect The Job?
No. Cold doesn’t affect the way you service a truck, although everything may move more slowly. This can be aggravating, but if you are keeping yourself warm, you’ll get through it.
Take care of your tools. Protecting them from the cold is just as important as protecting them from the rain. Be sure to have a good toolbox, and don’t take your tools from a cold environment and immediately use them in a warm environment (or vice versa) without giving them a chance to acclimate to the new climate. Click here for a list of recommended toolboxes from Best Truck Upgrades.
Work in Cold Temperatures at Night
When the sun goes down, typically so does the temperature. Since most of our work is done at night, it is even more important that we monitor all of these tips. We watch what we eat and drink, how much we move around, and definitely what we wear.
Take Time to Have Some Fun
No one ever said you can’t make a snow angel at the end of your shift or when you get home. Be sure to see the beauty in the change of seasons.