Staying Safe during Cold Weather

Wisconsin is known for its unpredictable weather. Temperature can change twenty degrees within a twenty-four hour span. One minute it’s raining and the next it’s snowing. Being prepared for the weather is important at all times, especially during winter. Despite the cold temperatures and blustery winds, farmers still need to accomplish some of their outdoor tasks. Being equipped for the weather conditions and planning accordingly can help keep these farmers safe.

Be sure to double-check the weather and take it into consideration while planning the work that needs to be done outside. It’s important to check the temperature, along with the wind, precipitation, visibility, and wind chill. The wind chill is the air temperature that would feel the same on exposed skin as the given combination of air temperature and wind speed. Knowing this information can help you dress appropriately. Also when planning, keep in mind that it gets darker much earlier than in the summer months. Darkness, along with ice, snow, or wind, can change the length of almost any task. Be open to finishing at different times and, if needed, rest in warm areas for a break.

When getting ready to head into the wintery weather, dress in layers. The inner layers should be more insulating while the outer layers should be more waterproof. Layers of clothing help regulate body temperature when exposed to the cold. Also, while many people only think about wearing sunglasses in summer, they are also helpful to protect eyes from sunlight in winter. There are also sunglasses goggles, similar to those who snowmobile would wear, that can provide additional protection when working outdoors in the cold. Another accessory to grab before going out is a hat. Up to 50 percent of a person’s body heat is lost through the head, so simply wearing a hat can significantly help keep the body warm. Wearing shoes with thick rubber soles and large treads can give more traction when walking on ice and reduce slips and falls.

An additional way to stay safe in winter is to have a cell phone along at all times for use in case of an emergency. Also, be sure to tell someone where you will be working and when you will be done. This way, someone will notice if you don’t return on time. An emergency kit can also be kept in the vehicle or machines that will be used. A few things to include are extra clothing, especially socks and gloves to keep you dry, flashlights with extra batteries, an AM/FM radio to listen to emergency weather messages, and a first aid kit with a few snacks. Of course, these items should all be checked every few months to make sure that they are working. A good rule is to look through the items when the seasons change.

Healthy eating is important, even in winter. Nutritious food allows the body to respond to extreme temperatures more effectively, and helps combat fatigue. A warm drink, such as coffee or hot chocolate, can help you stay hydrated while also warming you up.

Another thing to be aware of in winter is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that comes from welding, gas-burning engines, alternative heating sources, and cigarette smoking, to name a few. Carbon monoxide can build up indoors and poison people or animals who breathe it. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. When starting an engine in a barn or garage, keep the doors wide open to let fresh air in. Also, battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors are a great way to be sure carbon monoxide is at a safe level.

There are also some safety measures that can be done to both the home and farm. Winterize buildings that provide shelter for family, livestock, or equipment. One way this can be done is by caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows. Also, insulating any water lines that run near walls will make them less likely to freeze. Install storm shutters, doors, and windows. In case of an emergency, have emergency materials stockpiled. These materials may include an electric generator, shovel, and road salt.

While winter in Wisconsin can be very unpredictable, being prepared can reduce accidents and falls. Keeping an eye on the weather forecast along with implementing safety provisions can help keep farmers safe and may even save a life.

Resources:

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/newslett.nsf/all/far23240

http://www.prep4agthreats.org/Assets/Factsheets/Winter-Storms-and-Your-Farm.pdf