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Prevent The Cold Stress

It’s important for employers to know the wind chill temperatures so that they can gauge workers’ exposure risk better and plan how to safely finish the job. Employers need to be monitoring workers’ physical condition during their tasks, especially new workers who may not be used to working in the cold, or workers returning to work after spending some time away.

Environmental Cold

Environmental cold can affect any worker exposed to cold air temperatures and puts workers at risk of cold stress. As wind speed increases, it causes the cold air temperatures to feel even colder, increasing the risk of cold stress exposed to workers, such as recreational workers, snow cleanup crews, construction workers, police officers, and firefighters. Other workers who may be affected by exposure to environmental cold conditions include those in transit, baggage handlers, water transportation, landscaping services, and support activities for oil and gas operations.

What is cold stress?

In regions that are not used to the winter weather, near-freezing temperatures are considered factors for “cold stress”. Increased wind speed also causes heat to leave the body more rapidly (wind chill effect). Wetness or dampness also facilitates heat loss from the body. Cold stress happens when your skin temperature decreases and eventually the internal body temperature. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur, and permanent tissue damage and death may result. Cold stress includes trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia.

How can I prevent cold stress?

Train your workers on:

  • How to recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that can lead to cold stress
  • The symptoms of cold stress, how to prevent cold stress, and what to do to help those who are affected
  • How to select proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions

Employers should:

  • Monitor worker’s physical condition
  • Schedule frequent short breaks in warm dry areas to allow the body to warm up
  • Schedule work during the warmest part of the day
  • Use the buddy system (work in pairs)
  • Provide warm beverages and water
  • Provide engineering controls such as radiant heaters

Read more about OSHA’s Cold Stress Prevention here!



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