Winter weather can create hazardous conditions for everyone, but individuals who do outdoor work are perhaps most affected. Working outdoors presents challenges all year round, but cold weather can become especially dangerous.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a standard for working in cold environments. However, employers must provide employees with employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards, which includes those related to winter weather.
Winter Work Hazards
Employers should ensure that workers know how to recognize the symptoms of cold stress. Cold stress occurs by bringing down the skin’s temperature and eventually the individual’s internal temperature. If the body is unable to warm itself, serious illnesses and injuries may occur. Permanent tissue damage and even fatality can be caused by cold stress. Cold temperatures, high or cold wind, cold water, and dampness all contribute to cold stress.
Employees who are working outdoors should know how to monitor themselves and coworkers for symptoms of cold stress. They should also be provided with first aid training. Workers should be provided with information for selecting clothing for cold, windy, and wet conditions.
Slippery roads, downed power lines, and windy conditions can also create hazardous conditions for workers. Employers should discuss engineering controls with workers to help them minimize the risk of cold stress. For example, shielding work areas from drafts or wind can reduce wind chill.
Safe Winter Work Practices
Following safe work practices can help everyone stay safe on the job. Workers should be provided with the tools and equipment needed to do their jobs. If possible, maintenance and repair jobs should be scheduled for warmer months. If workers do need to be exposed to cold weather to do their work, attempt to schedule the work during the warmer part of the day. Avoid exposure to extremely cold temperatures as much as possible, and limit the time spent outside on extremely cold days. Provide warm areas for use during breaks and monitor workers who may be at risk of cold stress. Have a system in place for reliably communicating with workers, especially if the weather is worsening and work needs to be stopped.
Dress for the Weather
If cold environments or temperatures cannot be avoided, dressing for the cold can help protect workers. OSHA recommends wearing at least three layers of loose fitting clothing, since layering provides better insulation. Start with an inner layer that will hold body heat, followed by a middle layer that will provide insulation even if it gets wet. The outer layer should allow some ventilation in addition to providing a protection from wind and rain.
Avoid clothing that is too tight, as it reduces blood circulation. A hat that covers the ears can also help workers stay warmer. Insulated gloves that are water resistant can help protect hands, while insulated waterproof boots can protect feet.
If you or a loved one has been injured in work related incident, contact the Schuerman Law office today. Schuerman Law has been working with personal injury claims for over 40 years. John Schuerman will compassionately advocate for injured individuals as well as their families while fighting for full compensation of their claims. Schuerman Law offers evening and weekend appointments in addition to home and hospital visits. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 1-800-274-0045.