Cold weather hazards are at the forefront of everyone’s minds this weekend as the East Coast is walloped by a “bomb cyclone” winter storm, with temperatures dipping dangerously low, but the whole country is experiencing colder than normal temperatures. The safety experts at SCT want to remind those working outside to bundle up and watch out for fellow workers in the bitter cold.
HOW TO DEFINE “too cold”
According to the “Cold Stress Guide” from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “What constitutes extreme cold and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions that are not used to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered ‘extreme cold.'”
Cold stress is the broad term for problems that occur when the skin and, eventually, the internal body temperature reaches dangerously low levels. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can lead to serious health problems, may cause tissue damage, and possibly death.
CONTRIBUTING risk factors
- Wetness/dampness, dressing improperly, and exhaustion
- Predisposing health conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism, and diabetes
- Poor physical conditioning
most common cold induced illnesses/injuries
- Trench Foot
Find out more about the symptoms, treatment and prevention methods of these cold induced illnesses and injuries by visiting NIOSH’s Cold Stress webpage.
Prevent COLD WEATHER HAZARDS
Employers are responsible for providing a working environment that is free from recognized hazards that cause or may be likely to cause death or physical harm. There are three key steps employers should follow to prevent cold stress exposure and conditions:
- Train Workers. Employees should know how to recognize cold stress illnesses and how to apply first aid. Workers should also be trained on how to use any engineering controls, and personal protective equipment that reduce exposure to cold weather.
- Provide Engineering Controls. Find ways to shield work areas from drafts or wind to reduce wind chill. For outdoor work stations, provide proper heating apparatuses to give workers an area of respite from the cold.
- Use Safe Work Practices. Schedule heavy work during the warmest part of the day and make sure workers use the buddy system, and are trained to recognize signs of cold stress in their work partner. Give frequent breaks and provide warm areas to recover from the cold. Additionally, enforce proper dress code and PPE when it comes to cold weather gear.
Cold weather hazards are preventable. Don’t leave your workers out in the cold — get them the proper PPE! Make sure your workers know the signs of cold stress injuries and illnesses. General First Aid knowledge can save limbs and lives.