Don’t Freeze Up | Cold Stress Prevention for Workers

Whenever possible, workers should avoid exposure to extreme cold. Extremely cold working environments can cause skin and body temperatures to drop, which can result in serious health problems and tissue damage. Common types of cold stress include hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.

Cold stress can be a risk within many job types, such as emergency response and various cleanup positions. The risk of cold stress may be increased in the following situations: Wet/damp environments; Workers who are dressed improperly; Worker exhaustion; Workers in poor physical condition; and Workers with certain health conditions.

If the cold can’t be avoided, there are many ways workers can help protect themselves:

  • Ensure clothing is appropriate for the conditions. Layer loose clothing to provide insulation. Avoid tight clothing which reduces circulation.
  • Properly protect the face, ears, hands and feet. Wearing a hat can reduce body heat loss. Consider insulated, waterproof boots and gloves.
  • Keep extra gear on hand, including a change of clothes, socks, gloves, hats, jackets and blankets, to ensure you can stay dry. Moisture, even from sweat, can increase the rate of heat loss.
  • During breaks, move to warmer locations.
  • Keep hot drinks and chemical hot packs available.
  • Monitor your physical condition, and ensure you are aware of the employer controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) provided for your job.

Preventative measures help workers protect themselves against the health and safety concerns of cold stress. The risks of cold stress can be minimized through safe work practices and appropriate clothing. For more information on the cold stress symptoms and prevention, see OSHA’s Cold Stress Guide.

Date Posted: 02-03-2016
Tags: cold stress, osha cold stress, osha safety topics, osha workplace safety,
Categories: OSHA Safety,