Getting paid while working outdoors has its perks, but not when harsh winter weather strikes. It can be dangerous to work in winter's icy cold.
Workers who face brutally cold weather and unpredictable winter conditions top our list for some of the toughest winter jobs. They have to take extreme caution since the risk for hypothermia, dehydration and slips and falls are ever present during outdoor winter jobs.
1. Power-line technicians and meter readers
One of the ways power companies try to avoid having crews in the harsh winter weather is by scheduling bigger construction jobs during the fall or spring. Not only is it easier at those times for those linemen to be outside, but it is a safer time for the power to go out if needed.
"We have linemen out there in storms working around the clock to restore power," Todd Meyers, with West Penn Power, said.
Meyers said linemen dress in multiple thin layers, use hand warmers and wear snow chains for their boots.
"Job briefings are held every morning to refocus them and to get them thinking it's going to be cold," Meyers said.
The crew can't be worried about the temperature because they need to be focused on the electricity.
"If they lose focus, there could be deadly consequences," Meyers said.
Linemen have to take periodic breaks in their truck to warm up. This often frustrates customers without power; however, it is crucial for workers to warm up.
2. Airport ramp agents
Winter brings a whole new set of challenges for ramp agents because of brutal cold and wind.
When weather deteriorates, airport ramp agents face a tough time keeping up with all the snow, ice, bags and more. It can be a dangerous job once blizzard or whiteout conditions unfold.
On top of lifting heavy bags and deicing airplanes, ramp agents have to be cautious of slippery ramp surfaces. Online job posting for a ramp agent will often say it is preferred the employee is knowledgeable about work safely in outdoor weather conditions.
This posting lists the physical demands for the position include lifting up to 70 pounds, pushing, reaching, standing, stooping and climbing steps/stairs.
It is important for these workers to cover their ears and avoid wearing tight clothes. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it is not safe to wear tight clothing because it reduces blood circulation.
The crews must be aware of trench foot, which is a non-freezing injury of the feet caused by prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. According to OSHA, the injury occurs because wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet.
It's a very cold day @flyYXE ! A big shout out to the ramp agents! Thanks guys for all you do! KUDOS! Stay warm! #yxe #rampagents #socold
— Saskatoon Airport (@fly_skyxe) January 21, 2013
3. Deliverers (UPS, mailmen)
UPS has winter weather training for all of their drivers, and sometimes a penguin comes to visit for training purposes.
The drivers watch how the penguin walks so they are able to mimic it correctly. Walking can be challenging or even treacherous in winter conditions, especially while holding packages.
"All new UPS drivers are trained on the Slip and Fall machine; it teaches drivers how to fall correctly," Dan McMackin, UPS public relations officer, said.
It is like an air hockey surface with special shoes and a harness that catches trainees.
"We teach our drivers be aware of the warning signs for frostbite and hypothermia," McMackin said.
"They want to get those packages delivered and go home to their families, so the best thing our customers can do is be there if they are needed," McMackin said.
One benefit of the job, McMackin said, is that the drivers are moving around so much that it can help them stay warm.