Workin' in a Winter Wonderland

In case you weren’t aware, it is winter. Looking out my window in west Michigan, it looks more like early spring, but it is still chillingly cold, annoyingly wet, and January is only half over. Winter can be a slow time for some farmers, and most days can be spent in comfort. However, those with livestock still have plenty to keep them busy. Unless you want to bring the cows inside this winter, trekking through mud, snow, and bitter wind will be a requirement. The many hours working with animals in cold, damp weather can be especially hard on the body. All individuals, regardless of health or physical ability, should equip themselves to handle whatever winter may throw their way.

One of the easiest and most important things to do is wear appropriate clothing and personal protection equipment. Remember in elementary school when your mother would yell at you to put a coat on? That advice is no less pertinent in adulthood. In addition to coats, there are many other items that we should be putting on each time we go out on a cold winter day. OSHA certainly doesn’t hold the same weight as a mother’s stern warning, but they do offer some good advice on how to protect yourself and get the most out of your workday. Here are a few of their guidelines. To see the entire article, which also contains great information about how bodies react to cold, recognizing the signs of hypothermia, and how to treat frostbite, click HERE.

Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation. Do not wear tight fitting clothing.
o An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to keep moisture away from the body.
o A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
o An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
Wear a hat or hood to help keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head.

Use a knit mask to cover the face and mouth (if needed).

Use insulated gloves to protect the hands (water resistant if necessary).

Wear insulated and waterproof boots (or other footwear).

Staying warm, dry, and protected from the elements is just one winter difficulty to hurdle. The landscape around a farm can change significantly when dry clear paths become covered with ice, rain, snow, and mud. Farmers with mobility impairments should take extra precautions when working in these environments by making sure they have appropriate traction between them and the ground. For some, this may mean a good pair of winter boots. For others, it may mean adding high traction tires to a golf cart or electric wheel chair. Mobility aids, such as walkers and canes, should have tips that will work well in snow and ice.

While implementing the suggestions above can greatly improve winter working conditions, no piece of equipment or technology can compare to having a friend or co-worker assist with chores. At the very least, you should have a way to immediately contact someone in the event of an emergency. Cell phones and two-way radios are a great option. But even these devices aren’t as advantageous as having a co-worker by your side. On top of that, now you have someone to talk to about the weather

Posted on Friday, January 20, 2017