Prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures can often lead to cold stress, which includes fatigue and mild to severe health problems such as an increased risk of incidents or injuries, hypothermia, frostbite or trench foot, and other long-term health effects. Anyone who works in a cold environment can be at risk of cold stress. Some workers may need to work in cold environments and outdoors for long periods of time, such as snow removal crews, plumbing workers, police officers, and emergency and recovery personnel such as firefighters and paramedics. Cold stress can occur in this type of work environment. The following frequently asked questions help workers understand what cold stress is, how it can affect their health and safety, and how it can be avoided. Cold working conditions require engineering controls such as: NIOSH Science Blog: Cold Stress For many, an extra sweater or diploma on the thermostat is all it takes to stay warm at work on a cold day. This is not the case for those who work outdoors or in a poorly insulated or unheated area. At any temperature, you will feel colder as the wind speed increases. The combined effect of cold air and wind speed is simply expressed as «wind chill» temperature in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit.
It is essentially the air temperature that would be felt on exposed human flesh as the given combination of air temperature and wind speed. It can be used as a general guideline to decide on clothing requirements and the potential health effects of cold. In a cold environment, most of the body`s energy is used to keep the internal core temperature warm. Over time, the body begins to move blood flow from the extremities (hands, feet, arms, and legs) and from the outer skin to the core (chest and abdomen). This displacement allows rapid cooling of exposed skin and extremities and increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Combine this scenario with exposure to a humid environment, and trench foot can also be a problem. For outdoor workers, cold stress and its effects can vary across the country. In areas where workers are not accustomed to winter conditions, temperatures near freezing are considered cold stressors. Whenever outside temperatures drop significantly below normal and wind speeds increase, heat leaves the body faster. Other serious safety risks may become more likely as symptoms, even if they are mild.
These can lead to various incidents as cold muscles are more likely to be tense and sprained and mistakes or wrong actions can be taken if there is a lack of mental or physical coordination. For more information about the general effects of working in the cold, as well as how the body adapts to the cold, see Cold Environments – General. Protective clothing: See «What do I need to know about personal protective equipment (PPE) for working in the cold?» In extremely cold conditions where face protection is used, eye protection should be separated from the nose and mouth to prevent exhaled moisture from fogging up and freezing eye shields or glasses. Choose glasses that are suitable for your job and protect against the sun`s ultraviolet rays, snow glare, snow and ice crystals, and strong winds in cold weather. If you must work in the cold, be prepared and know that when there are no maximum or minimum exposure limits for cold work environments, there are guidelines that can be used to conduct work and task evaluations, create safe work schedules, and monitor conditions to protect the health and safety of workers who may be exposed to cold temperatures. If there are differences between the recommendations of different organizations (and if there are no limits or guidelines set by your jurisdiction), employers are encouraged to choose the system that best protects their workforce. Check the bill of materials for weather alerts and forecasts for where you work. Protecting your body by dressing appropriately in cold weather is extremely important to avoid cold stress injuries.
Overlay is essential when dressing for the cold, as it keeps you warm and secluded. Prevent contact of bare skin with cold surfaces (especially metal) below -7°C and skin contact when handling evaporative liquids (gasoline, alcohol, cleaning liquids) at temperatures below 4°C. Prolonged or stationary sitting should also be avoided. Always wear the right sock strength for your boots. If they are too thick, the boots are «tight» and the socks lose much of their insulating properties when tightened inside the boot. The foot would also be «pressed», which would slow blood flow to the feet and increase the risk of injury from the cold. If the socks are too thin, the boots fit poorly and can lead to blisters. As winter is in full swing nationwide, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is reminding workers whose jobs require them to work outdoors in cold, wet, icy or snowy conditions to be «prepared and aware» to prevent cold-related illnesses and injuries such as hypothermia and frostbite. For continuous work at temperatures below freezing, heated shelters such as tents, huts or break rooms should be available.
Work must be accelerated to avoid excessive sweating. If such work is necessary, reasonable rest periods should be allowed in a warm place and employees should put on dry clothes. New employees should have enough time to get used to the cold and protective clothing before taking on a full workload. Wet or wet clothing can cause your body temperature to drop quickly, putting you at a higher risk of illness and injury. Water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than air due to its density. Sweating is the body`s way of keeping you cool and keeping excess heat away, but in cold weather, you want to keep your body as warm as possible. Although physical activity helps keep body temperature warm, research shows that wet clothing increases heat loss through conduction and evaporation. According to the CDC, people affected by cold stress, such as hypothermia, are usually unaware of their conditions because symptoms appear gradually. Confusion and brain fog are common symptoms that can affect a person`s self-esteem. Communicate and check in often with other team members to look for warning signs such as loss of coordination or an inability to think clearly.
Extreme cold conditions can cause workers cold stress, which affects the body`s internal temperature and can lead to serious injuries. When the air temperature drops below normal, your body releases heat faster, resulting in physical stress. Apart from that, our body uses extra energy to keep us warm, which can lead to extreme fatigue. There is no set temperature range for exposure, so you need to plan and manage risks based on the type of environment, the work in those environments, and the duration of exposure. Read on to learn how to stay safe when working in the cold. Like the feet, the hands are the part of the body most likely to be affected by cold temperatures. When choosing gloves or mittens, it is necessary to take into account the most suitable product for the temperature or tasks performed in environments, such as the level of insulation, size and flexibility, as well as dexterity. Preventing cold-related illnesses, injuries and deaths among workers Workers, both indoors and outdoors, in the service, transportation, agriculture, construction and other industries, can be exposed to cold stress that can lead to thermal discomfort and, in some cases, even serious injuries. illness or death. If you`re working in cold conditions, it`s important to know the signs and symptoms of cold stress.
OSHA law states that employers are responsible for providing safe work environments free from hazards such as cold stress. Education and training should be provided to enable workers to adopt safe working practices to protect their health. NIOSH Working in the Cold Podcast In winter, many workers are outdoors, working in cold, wet, icy or snowy conditions. Learn how to identify symptoms that tell you there may be a problem and protect yourself from cold stress. Reflective or fluorescent panels are necessary when working in high-traffic areas and should be part of clothing design, rather than a separate vest that can cling to equipment. A cold environment challenges the worker in three ways: air temperature, air movement (wind speed) and humidity (humidity). In order to work safely, these challenges must be compensated by adequate insulation (multi-layered protective clothing), physical activity and controlled exposure to cold (work and rest schedule). The following resources can help you learn more about safety when working in the cold: A lot of heat is lost through the head. Factors to consider when choosing the most appropriate head covering for the work environment include: Breaks are necessary for any work environment, but become increasingly important when working in extremely cold conditions.