Temple Times Online Edition
    FEBRUARY 3, 2005
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Tips for staying safe this winter

Although winter officially arrived a few weeks ago, it looks as if winter weather has finally arrived. The Human Resources Department encourages each employee to be safe at work, at home and while commuting to and from work. Winter weather poses unique problems for everyone; therefore, extra precaution and preparation now can keep Temple’s work force warm and safe when winter weather is in full force.

Snow and extreme cold temperatures expose our bodies to various health risks and both have a direct correlation to increases in home fires, heart attacks, car accidents and numerous other fatal or disabling injuries during the winter months.

About one-third of all fire-related home deaths occur during December, January and February, with the leading cause being heating equipment. Heating systems should be cleaned and checked by a qualified service technician on an annual basis. For efficiency purposes, filters should be cleaned and/or replaced on a monthly basis.

Extreme care should be taken when using alternative heating sources such as wood stoves, fireplaces and space heaters. These units should be inspected and cleaned annually. Check the wires on electric space heaters, and don’t use them if they spark. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s operating requirements, using only the type of fuel that your heater is designed to use. For example, don’t burn paper in fireplaces or substitute gasoline for kerosene.

Keep children and flammable materials such as drapes, furniture, clothes and papers at least three feet away from space heaters and other heating units. Store a multipurpose, dry chemical fire extinguisher near any area using an alternate heating source.

In addition to smoke detectors being installed and maintained on every level of the house and in each bedroom, carbon monoxide monitors should be mounted in the same locations. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases during winter, with more than 200 annual fatalities and several thousand emergency room visits each year.

Carbon monoxide is produced by fuel-burning motor vehicles, appliances and heating systems.

Faulty or improperly vented units (stoves and heaters) pose a safety threat, and charcoal grills should never be used indoors. Idling motor vehicles in enclosed areas (garages) or running with tightly closed windows also pose a risk. Drivers stranded because of inclement weather should always crack a window open and keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow clogs.

Stay informed by listening to weather forecasts and updates, and dress for the season. Many layers of thin, dry clothing are warmer than a single layer of thick clothes. They should be kept dry and changed when they become wet due to perspiration or the elements. Mittens keep the fingers warmer than gloves, and hats are recommended because most of your body’s heat is lost through your head. Your ears, nose, chin and forehead are most susceptible to frostbite and should be protected. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from directly inhaling extremely cold air.

Snow and ice also can pose other health hazards. Wear boots or sturdy shoes to give maximum traction, which will reduce your risk of slipping and/or falling. Since studies show dramatic increases in heart attacks during snowstorms, individuals over the age of 40 and those who are relatively inactive should be especially careful. If you have a history of heart trouble, do not shovel without your doctor’s permission.

Freshly fallen snow is easier to remove than the wet, packed-down variety. Remember to take it slow, pace yourself and take breaks. Use a shovel with a long handle and push the snow rather than lift it. If you must shovel, take small scoops and lift with your legs — not your back.

Use snow blowers with care: They are the fourth-leading cause of finger amputation associated with consumer products, approximately 1,000 per year.

If you must drive in wintry conditions, make sure that your car is winterized. Check your fluid levels (oil, transmission, windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze and fuel) battery, lights, brakes, heater, defroster, tires treads and exhaust system. Equip your vehicle with a charged cell phone, ice scraper, snow brush and shovel, flashlight, batteries, warm clothes, road salt and sand, snacks and water — especially on long trips. Try to restrict your driving to main roads and be alert for snow clearing and emergency vehicles.

For additional winter safety information, visit the state Health Department online at
www.dsf.health.state.pa.us/health/site/default.asp. Please remember to notify your supervisor immediately after any work-related injury, and to call the Workers’ Compensation Department at 204-3328 with all related questions.

- By Tom Johnston