Protect workers with a quick cold-weather safety recap


As temperatures hover at -25 degrees F (-50 degrees with wind chill) outside my window in Northern Wisconsin, I think a brief review of proper cold-weather safety tips is in order. 

In a Cold Stress Safety Guide, OSHA says hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot are the three most common cold-induced problems workers face in these treacherous temps.  

To protect against these and other cold-related issue, ensure workers have proper clothing and layer appropriately to keep the core body temperature between 98.6 and 95 degrees F. Protective clothing should include insulated boots, wool layers, wind/rain protection, and loose fitting clothing. OSHA stresses hats or hoods since up to 40 percent of body heat can be lost when the head is left exposed.  

Related: Safety First: Not a Simple Choice

One of the most important preventive measures is planning ahead. OSHA offers the following suggestions to minimize the effects of cold weather:

  • Drink plenty of liquids, avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
  • If possible, heavy work should be scheduled during the warmer parts of the day.
  • Take breaks out of the cold.
  • Try to work in pairs to keep an eye on each other and watch for signs of cold stress.
  • Avoid fatigue since energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
  • Take frequent breaks and consume warm, high-calorie food such as pasta to maintain energy reserves. 

Some type of shelter to shield workers from drafts or wind is also a wise investment. 

“Training in recognition and treatment is important,” says the safety guide. “Supervisors, workers and coworkers should watch for signs of cold stress and allow workers to interrupt their work if they are extremely uncomfortable. Supervisors should also ensure that work schedules allow appropriate rest periods and ensure liquids are available.” 

Related: Safety First: Job Site Safety Begins In The Shop

If your company works in a dangerously cold climate, follow these precautions to protect your workers from severe health and safety problems.     

For more information on keeping yourself and your workers safe in these bitter temperatures, visit www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/guides/cold.html


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