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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingMarch 20 - March 26, 2019

Cold-Weather Safety

Tow truck driver  cable t460 ccf05By Brian J. Riker

Towers are often called upon to perform superhuman feats of endurance during periods of extreme weather. The cold affects all of us and right now so many are facing the extreme cold blanketing most of the United States.

Even if you feel you have become acclimated to the cold, you still are not immune to its effects. Those operating in the normally warmer parts of the country generally have more difficulty with the cold as they are not acclimated, nor is their equipment usually prepared for extreme cold. However, those of us from the northern part of the country need to take extra precautions too.

Hydration, diet and rest are just as important in the cold as they are in the heat. Without proper hydration levels, our body can't process the calories we intake and convert them to heat. It is suggested to increase your daily caloric intake by 20 percent to 30 percent or more if you are going to spend extended periods outdoors. This does not mean eating an extra candy bar; instead eat high-carb, warm food like pasta.

Warm drinks are best, but avoid caffeine. Water and juice are great choices as well. I strongly recommend always keeping some beef jerky, granola and bottled water in the truck. Even tow trucks can become stranded in traffic or stuck in a remote area for several hours awaiting help.
Dress in layers with a sweat-wicking base layer. Hats, hoods and face masks are very important. Almost 50 percent of body heat escapes through the head; be sure to keep it covered and dry. As our body sweats, we need to keep this moisture off our skin as wet skin reduces our core temperature almost twice as fast as dry.

Frostbite is caused by exposure to cold and can occur in just minutes. Always carry extra clothes and blankets, socks and even extra footwear. Hands, feet, ears and face are most prone to frostbite and will appear as discoloration of the skin. Often someone experiencing frostbite will not realize it due to accompanying numbness.

If you start shivering, do not ignore it! Shivering is the body's first warning sign that your core temperature is falling. Hypothermia means the body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees F. It can kill you. Symptoms include lack of coordination, confusion, slowed reactions and sleepiness.

Physical exertion during cold weather places extra strain on your cardiac system. Be extra careful if you have high blood pressure or a history of cardiac problems. Even the most robust individuals are already working harder just to stay warm, so be mindful of your own physical condition. There is up to a 53-percent greater risk of heart attack in cold weather.

The extra effort required to maintain core temperature fatigues you much quicker than normal. Keep this in mind when scheduling; you simply can't do as much as normal. Extra breaks are required for food and water, as well as getting out of the cold to warm up.

Management should monitor employees for signs of exposure, require more frequent check-in calls, dispatch an extra helper for more complex jobs and allow longer rest breaks. Consider postponing jobs that are not critical until the weather allows better working conditions.

Brian J. Riker is a third-generation towman and president of Fleet Compliance Solutions. With 25 years of experience, he specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of federal and state transportation regulatory compliance. He can be reached at
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