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 January 8, 2010


Take action to combat cold-weather injuries

Soldiers and civilians can keep themselves safe during the upcoming cold-weather/winter season by understanding cold-weather injuries and how to prevent and treat them.

During the past 10 years, Soldiers have experienced an average of 361 cold-weather injuries a year, according to statistics from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Training Center. Cold-weather injury prevention is a command and leadership, as well as a personal, responsibility. The successful management of cold depends on having the proper knowledge and understanding of problems associated with cold weather.

Fort McCoy’s winter climate makes it important to know the proper steps to take to prevent and combat cold-weather injuries, said Deb Heise-Clark, Installation Safety Office (ISO) safety specialist.

“Many of the injuries that we have had at Fort McCoy already this winter season involve the extremities (toes and fingers),” Heise-Clark said. “(Everyone) should place an emphasis on keeping themselves and their clothing dry.”

If clothing becomes wet, people should ensure their skin is dry and then put on dry clothing, such as socks, gloves, boots, etc. Heise-Clark said this is important during both work and at home, especially during recreational activities.

“We will be discussing this topic at our next quarterly Safety and Occupational Health Advisory Council meeting,” which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, Heise-Clark said.

Other important safety topics for people in the Fort McCoy community include monitoring for carbon monoxide (CO) and the proper use of snow blowers.

CO is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels and interferes with the delivery of oxygen in the blood to the rest of the body.

The major sources of CO are incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels, such as coal, wood, charcoal, natural gas and fuel oil. Possible sources include the gas being emitted by combustion sources, such as unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, furnaces, woodstoves, gas stoves, fireplaces and water heaters, and automobile exhaust from garages attached to houses.

People can prevent CO poisoning by ensuring appliances are properly adjusted and working to the manufacturers’ instructions or local building codes. This includes ensuring heating sources are properly vented, have an adequate intake of outside air and are not used in an enclosed space if not properly vented. CO detectors can be used as a backup, but shouldn’t be used as a replacement for proper use and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances.

Anyone using a snow blower must read the owner’s manual to become familiar with its specific operation. Heise-Clark said installation organizations using snow blowers must document the orientation process.

Approved gas containers must be used for snow blowers, and the containers and snow blowers cannot be stored in mechanical rooms or where flames are present. Heise-Clark said people using snow blowers should check the areas they will be clearing and pick up anything that could cause an injury.

Proper safety procedures should be followed when running the equipment, adding gas or clearing items from a machine. Machines should be turned off when they’re unattended.

“People also should wear appropriate clothing and footwear to prevent frostbite and improve footing on slippery surfaces,” Heise-Clark said.

For more in-depth information about cold-weather-related injuries and their prevention, visit the Army’s Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine site at http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/HIOCWI/, which includes guidance and publications, presentations and training aids.

More information about the Army’s fall/winter safety campaign can be found at https://safety.army.mil by clicking on the fall/winter icon at the bottom right corner of the home page.

For more information in the Fort McCoy community, visit the Safety Section of the Fort McCoy Extranet, which is available through the public Web site at http://www.mccoy.army.mil  or through the Fort McCoy Corporate Network. Information also is available by calling the ISO at 608-388-3403.

(Compiled from information from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative medicine and the Fort McCoy Installation Safety Office).



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