Conquering The Cold To Get The Job Done

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Below freezing temperatures and significant snowfalls kept many people at home on Monday. But, those same conditions also made it necessary for City of Warsaw road crews to arrive at their posts early to begin plowing snow and placing sand and salt on roads to make them safer for drivers.
“Even though it was a holiday, our workers were out at 2 AM on Monday and are to be commended for a job well done,” said Doug Hedrick, City employee directing the road crews.
Hedrick said that City trucks are kept in shape, with good maintenance, so they are safe to operate when needed.  All of the trucks have heaters, and crews are advised to layer their clothing to help prevent cold stress.
“We take care of all City roads, and our coverage area is increasing with construction of new businesses such as the Casey’s that is going up near McDonalds,” Hedrick added. “Our road crews have been accident free as they have performed their work.”
Monday was a regular work day for first responders, including the staff of Warsaw/Lincoln Ambulance Service. Three paramedics and three EMTs staff the station every day, and they are provided winter gear, and heated ambulances for trips they must make in cold weather. Their three ambulances have rear wheel chains that can be dropped onto tires while the vehicle is moving, but if the ambulance skids off the road into a ditch before activating the chains, they won’t be deployed.
“Winter weather slows our response time,” said Paramedic David Jenkins. “We are just like other vehicles in that we can have mishaps on the road and must drive a little more carefully in bad weather.”
“Anything that happens to a person is an emergency to them,” commented Jenkins. “But if it is not what an emergency room considers to be a true emergency, the person arriving by ambulance will be sent back home. If all three of our ambulances are called out, the next person needing one may have to wait until one from another district can respond.”
Jason Senberg, Acting Chief of Police for Warsaw, said that the department’s response time is slower in winter weather. But, as of late Monday morning there had not been any calls. 
“Everything has been quiet and calm so far in Warsaw,” said Senberg. “But, the Sheriff’s office has had to respond to some calls in the county.”
Senberg said that police officers are provided with winter coats, hats and gloves to keep them warm during this time of year. 
Monday was also a workday for employees of Ozark Disposal who are always concerned about road conditions as they make pickups in Benton and several other adjoining counties. 
“Road conditions worry us when there is snow,” said Kevin Dockery, owner of Ozark Disposal. “We do many pickups in resort areas where snow plowing is not always done by the City. We also worry about visibility. Usually in bad weather our start up is delayed.  On Mondays we begin start ups at 3 AM, but we delayed it until 6 AM this Monday when visibility was better and some roads had been plowed. Our drivers also use their judgment (based on experience) to decide if they should pick up in an area where they might get stuck.  We often change our routes during bad weather so that our last scheduled stops are picked up first and our first scheduled stops are left until the end of the route.”
Dockery said that safety is the company’s biggest issue, so employees are provided with high visibility coats. Since most of them are in and out of their trucks, there is little danger of over exposure to the elements.  However, those who have many pickups on a street are asked to take breaks inside the heated trucks before getting too cold. 
“We have not had to close our routes this year because of weather,” said Dockery. “But we have done so in the past when the snow was deeper and some bags left out for pickup were buried.”
The City of Warsaw subcontracts water meter reading and maintenance to People Service. The company was due to read meters on Monday, but was unable to carry out the job because 15 to 20 percent of the meters were covered by ice and snow and could not be found without a metal detector. Company representative, Mark Breshears, said that readings would have to be estimated, or read when the weather warmed up. 
“We are big on safety,” said Breshears. “We don’t stay outside in the cold more than 20 minutes at a time. After that amount of exposure, we get back in vehicles to warm up. In the event of a water main break, we wear water-proof and insulated clothing. I have been in this business a long time and have had icicles on my whiskers many times.”
Employees at Henderson Ranch in Edwards find that cold weather causes mishaps to occur. Water has frozen and heaters have gone out on water tanks during this cold spell. Four ranch hands have been out in their winter clothes giving extra feed to the cattle, as they need to eat more when it is cold.
A call to the Edwards Post Office confirmed that its local mail was being delivered on Tuesday morning without any problems.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) website provides tips to protect workers in cold environments. It reports that prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures may cause serious health problems such as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. In extreme cases, immersion and exposure can lead to death. Danger signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue and confused behavior. Tips to employers include: Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that may be dangerous; Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to help workers; Train workers about cold-induced illnesses and injuries; Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions; Be sure workers in extreme conditions take a frequent short break in warm, dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up; and Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day.  OSHA also suggests that workers: Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm; Work in pairs so that one worker can recognize danger signs; Drink warm, sweet beverages and avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol; Eat warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes; and Remember that workers face increased risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical condition or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
OSHA does not require employers to provide clothing for normal exposure to outdoor cold weather, however, many employers provide their workers with winter weather gear.