Are You Prepared for Working in the Cold?
Follow these OSHA tips to prevent hypothermia and other cold stress injuries
Now that winter is in full force, facility and landscape workers find themselves dealing with snow and ice removal as well as other cold-weather tasks to maintain their buildings this season. These workers are at risk of hypothermia, frost bite and other cold stress injuries. The most important thing they can do is dress appropriately for the weather. OSHA advises the following tactics:
- Wear at least three layers of loose-fitting clothing—an inner layer of wool, silk, or synthetic (polypropylene) to keep moisture away from the body; a middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet; and an outer wind- and rain-protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
- Avoid tight clothing as it reduces blood circulation.
- Wear a knit mask to cover the face and mouth.
- Don’t forget a hat that will cover your ears as well as the top of your head.
- Protect your hands and feet with water-resistant and insulated gloves and boots.
Employers can implement engineering controls to protect workers from winter-related hazards. For example, they can use aerial lifts or ladders to safely apply de-icing materials to roofs. Other safe work practices for winter include:
- Schedule maintenance and repair jobs for warmer months.
- Schedule jobs that expose workers to the cold weather in the warmer part of the day.
- Limit the amount of time spent outdoors on extremely cold days.
- Provide warm areas for break periods as well as warm liquids (no alcohol).
- Monitor the weather conditions during a winter storm, having a reliable means of communicating with workers and being able to stop work or evacuate when necessary
- Acclimatize new workers and those returning after time away from work by gradually increasing their workload, and allowing more frequent breaks in warm areas, as they build up a tolerance for working in the cold environment.