While most people bundle up and head indoors when the mercury drops into the frigid range, the garbage always gets picked up.
Waste Management's drivers may make as many as 1,000 collection stops during a residential route and they know that to get the job done and keep safe, they've first got to keep warm.
Driver protection is the most important safety consideration, said Rick Grochowski, Waste Management safety manager in its Illinois-Missouri Valley Area. "Waste Management drivers are trained to understand that stress can be caused by cold weather just as it can be caused by heat."
When the weather drops to frigid levels, morning safety meetings include tips on dealing with the cold. Training includes guidance on identifying a range of issues related to exposure to cold temperatures. They can range from a mild case of chilblains, which is caused by exposure to the cold for several hours, to frostbite, a serious injury caused when body tissue temperature falls below the freezing point or when blood flow is obstructed.
Hypothermia is another concern. Often related to exposure to icy water, its symptoms include sensation of cold followed by pain in exposed parts of the body. If it is a prolonged period of time, pain may give way to numbness, weakening muscles, and drowsiness.
To prevent cold stress to the body, Waste Management offers its drivers a dozen safety tips that may benefit the public. Waste Management drivers are advised to:
• Let their body get used to cold temperatures gradually, called acclimatization.
• Wear multiple layers of clothing.
• Wear a warm hat.
• Keep hands warm with mittens or gloves.
• Carry an extra pairs of mittens, gloves and socks.
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Avoid coffee and tea.
• Pace themselves during the workday.
• Stay fit.
• Eat high-energy foods like nuts and raisins.
• Avoid tobacco.
• If traveling on short day trips or cross-country, carry emergency supplies.
Anyone with exposure to the frigid temperatures should always remain aware of how they feel in cold weather and be sensitive to the signs of cold stress, Grochowski said. They should always wear proper clothing and take work breaks, staying out of the severe cold for warmup periods.