Working in Cold Conditions
April 2, 2021
Winter is here, meaning employees and employers working amidst the weather could be susceptible to Cold Stress. The most common and dangerous cold-induced injuries and illnesses are hypothermia and frostbite; it is a hazard of which all employees and employers must be aware. Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature (core temperature). This may lead to serious health problems and may cause tissue damage, and at its worst, death.
There are a few things that employers can do to help inform employees of these dangers, such as having drivers listen to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio. This radio station broadcasts continuous weather information and will send warnings when wind chill temperatures are life-threatening.
Supervisors, workers, and co-workers should watch for signs of cold stress and allow workers to interrupt operations until they are comfortable. Provide training to all staff regarding the symptoms and treatment of cold-related injuries and illnesses. We advise doing a simple search on symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite so you are familiar in the event of an employee becoming ill.
Along with training and educating employees, the company must initiate and reinforce safety protocols and clearly state employee responsibilities and expectations. Listed below are simple preventative steps that can help maintain a safe work environment.
- Identify potential slip, trip, and fall hazards in your workplace; review incident records and inspect locations
- Evaluate the potential risk of a number of employees who could be affected, the potential frequency of risk, and the potential impact of the surrounding area or equipment
- Determine controls that can be instituted to reduce each hazard: relocating or removing dangerous environmental factors, limiting accessibility to higher-risk areas
- Provide appropriate footwear and personal protective equipment for employees
- Regularly review the work environment: maintain regular housekeeping, ensure good lighting and keep equipment in proper working condition
- Create an environment where your staff is comfortable enough to share the responsibility for your safety plan and actively participate in providing feedback. Management can utilize the feedback to create a comprehensive safety protocol for working in cold conditions.