OSHA’s Tips to Protect Workers in Cold Environments

With the often brutal winter conditions that come with this time of year, everyone knows the importance of keeping warm. This is especially crucial for those who work outside and are exposed to the brunt of the cold weather.

 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a helpful guide for protecting workers in severe cold environments. The following are some common sense tips to help workers stay safe during the harsh winter weather.

 

How to Protect Workers

  • 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.
  • Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions.
  • Be sure that workers in extreme conditions take a frequent short break in warm, dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up.
  • Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day.
  • Avoid exhaustion or fatigue, because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
  • Use the buddy system – work in pairs so that one worker can recognize danger signs.
  • Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) and avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas) or alcohol.
  • Eat warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes.
  • Remember, workers face increased risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical condition, or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, or cardiovascular disease.

Prolonged exposure to cold or freezing temperatures can cause serious health problems such as frostbite and hypothermia. In extreme cases, including cold weather immersion, exposure can lead to death. Danger signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue, and confused behavior. If any of these signs are observed, you should call for emergency help immediately.



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