As you might expect, working at a cold storage facility comes with its own unique challenges and hazards.
Working in a warehouse environment is dangerous enough with pallets of product from floor to ceiling, a flurry of forklift activity and the ever-present need for workers to lift and stack heavy items. Add to that frigid or freezing temperatures, and you’ve got an environment that calls for extreme caution. At Washington Cold Storage, we take our workers’ safety very seriously.
Metabolism & Muscular Activity
Initially, exposure to cold temperatures results in a loss of dexterity and numbness in toes and fingers. With prolonged exposure, it then becomes a metabolism problem. The human body naturally works to increase metabolism in cold temperatures — shivering being one method. Increased metabolism and muscular activity does a good job of helping a worker maintain the normal body temperature of 98.6°F.
But if a worker ever starts losing more heat than he or she is generating, that’s when body temperature can fall and metabolism will decrease as well. Generally, metabolism decreases 12 percent for every 1.8°F a worker loses in body temperature. But if properly prepared and protected, a person should be able to work in cold or freezing temperatures without any issues.
Put On Your Clos
Clo units are used to measure the insulating quality of clothing. A measure of 1 clo is equal to the clothing layer required to maintain comfort when sitting in a 70°F room with 50 percent humidity and little to no air movement. Heat generation from physical activity changes the amount of clos required. Clothing layers that add up to 4 clos will keep a person at rest comfortable in a 32°F room, while just 2 clos would be enough for a person doing heavy work in a -40°F environment, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO.
Clothing should fit the worker’s body type and avoid being too stiff, thick or heavy while providing necessary thermal protection. Clothing that is too tight can restrict blood and air circulation, and gloves that are too tight can result in frostbite.
Ideal conditions for a cold storage warehouse are a well-lit, non-drafty working area near a heated breakroom with plenty of free hot and cold beverages. Studies show a room with plenty of light psychologically appears warmer than a darker room. And breakrooms should be maintained at a temperature of 68-80°F.
The ratio or work activity to breaktime should be 5-to-1, or 50 minutes of work followed by a 10 minute break most hours, according to the FAO. During their breaks, workers should be encouraged to dry any wet clothes. A rest well spent can recharge the worker both physically and mentally, causing a safer and more efficient work environment.
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture