“It is the most wonderful time of the year”, so says the famous Christmas song and we are heading into the winter season, at least in climates of the northern hemisphere where cold and snow are present. For those who live in warmer climates, this message pertains to those of us who experience the wintry weather.
Temperature and Weather: Always check the temperature or anticipated temperature of your winter activity. If temperatures are likely to be -13 F (-25 C) or less you might want to reconsider your winter activity. Temperatures in this range can freeze exposed skin in a few minutes.
Clothing: Layer, layer, layer. Several thin layers are much better than a single bulky layer. Not only will adults and young people be more comfortable (meaning warm), the chance of getting wet is reduced. The worst formula for hypothermia is cold and WET. For younger children, add one more layer than for adults. The best formula is at least three layers, thin moisture wicking materials next to the skin. Middle insulating layer of wool or fleece and an outer layer of a water and wind proof material such as nylon or Gore-tex type materials. The layers can be removed or added depending on the level of activity. It is a good idea to keep a down coat or extra jacket which can be used during rest periods as a back-up to keeping warm.
If infants or babies are involved in an activity keep blankets, quilts, pillows, bumpers, sheepskins and other loose bedding out of an infant’s sleeping environment because these coverings are associated with suffocation deaths and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is better for the infant to wear a heavy one piece sleeper or wearable blanket. (See American Academy of Pediatrics).
Hypothermia: Hypothermia develops when the core temperature drops below normal due to cold, often wet conditions and can occur very quickly especially when engaged in outdoor activities in cold weather. Remember hypothermia can occur much more quickly in younger people than adults. Look for the signs, uncontrolled shivering, lethargy, clumsy, slurred speech. If you suspect hypothermia get the person into a warm environment immediately.
ICE Thickness: When engaging in activities on ice over water make sure the ice is at least 6 inches thick (for foot traffic). If you are unsure of the ice thickness stay away. If engaged in activities on ice over water make sure there are adequate rescue plans in place in the possibility of an ice break. The only sure way to determine ice thickness is to test it, however, the color of ice can sometimes give you a sign as to thickness. Clear blue ice is the strongest, white opaque ice is half as strong as the clear blue ice, and grey ice is absolutely unsafe. Be aware, an insulating layer of snow may mean the ice is not as thick as might have been anticipated. Always test it.
Sledding: Before going down on any kind of sled, make sure the hill is safe and there is a long run after the bottom of the hill. If trees, bumps, rocks, fences, bare spots, and drop offs are present, it is best to find another spot to sled. Make sure there is adequate adult supervision, do not sit/slide on a plastic sheet or other materials that can be pierced. If there are too many people sledding and to avoid possible contact, find a less congested place to sled. Any device that does not allow the person sledding to “steer” might be unsafe.
“Appropriate personal protective equipment is required for all activities. This includes the recommended use of helmets for all participants engaged in winter sports such as sledding and other sliding devices. The use of helmets is required for the following activities: downhill skiing, snowboarding, and operation of snowmobiles (full-face helmets).” (http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/HealthandSafety/Alerts/Winter2010.aspx).
Sunscreen/Hydrate: Use lots of sunscreen and keep properly hydrated. Hydration is as important for winter and in some instances is even more important than summer activities.
For additional resources click on these links: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/HealthSafety/pdf/680-055_4.pdf http://www.scouting.org/filestore/HealthSafety/pdf/680-055_5.pdf
Contributed by LDS Church Risk Management