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cold injury

  • How can cold stress be prevented?

    cold-stress-2We've talked about Hypothermia & Frostbite, but how does this affect the workplace?

    Although OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in cold environments, employers have a responsibility to provide workers with employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards, including cold stress, which are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to them (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970). Employers should, therefore, train workers on the hazards of the job and safety measures to use, such as engineering controls and safe work practices, that will protect workers’ safety and health.

    Employers should train workers on how to prevent and recognize cold stress illnesses and injuries and how to apply first aid treatment. Workers should be trained on the appropriate engineering controls, personal protective equipment and work practices to reduce the risk of cold stress.Cold-Work

    Employers should provide engineering controls. For example, radiant heaters may be used to warm workers in outdoor security stations. If possible, shield work areas from drafts or wind to reduce wind chill.

    Employers should use safe work practices. For example, it is easy to become dehydrated in cold weather. Employers therefore, can provide plenty of warm sweetened liquids to workers.  Avoid alcoholic drinks. If possible, employers can schedule heavy work during the warmer part of the day. Employers can assign workers to tasks in pairs (buddy system), so that they can monitor each other for signs of cold stress. Workers can be allowed to interrupt their work, if they are extremely uncomfortable. Employers should give workers frequent breaks in warm areas. 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. Safety measures, such as these, should be incorporated into the relevant health and safety plan for the workplace.

    Learn more: Cold Stress & Related IllnessCold-stress

  • Frostbite

    While Spring may be right around the corner, it is still bitter cold in many places... Do you know how to recognize, avoid, and treat Frostbite?

    Frostbite is a condition in which skin and the tissue just below the skin freeze

    FrostbiteWhat to look for:  With Frostbite, the skin appears waxy, is cold to the touch or discolored (white, gray, yellow, blue, or flushed) and the person with frostbite will often experience a lack of feeling in the affected area.

    Mild frostbite cases can be treated with gradual warming. Severe cases require medical care to prevent complications.

    How to care for Frostbite / First Aid measures:

    Note: Do not attempt to re-warm the frostbitten area if there is a chance that it might freeze again or if you are close enough to a medical facility to get advanced medical care in place of responder treatment.

    • Check to assure that the scene is safe for you to come to the injured person's aid and the check the person for any more serious or life threatening emergencies.
    • Send someone to CALL 9-1-1 (or the local emergency number).
    • Try to remove wet clothing and any jewelry on or near the affected area.
    • DO NOT rub the affected area - Handle the frostbitten are gently.
    • For minor frostbite, rapidly rewarm the affected part using skin-to-skin contact such as with a warm hand. (warmers may be used cautiously.)
    • Warm gently by soaking affected area in warm water (100°F - 105°F / 37°C - 40°C) until normal color returns and the frostbitten part feels warm.
    • Loosely bandage area with dry, sterile dressing.
    • If fingers or toes are frostbitten, place dry, sterile gauze between the digits to keep them separated.
    • Avoid breaking any blisters.


  • Hypothermia

    It is cold. This is dangerous. Whether at home or at work, you should understand the signs and symptoms of cold stress and cold-related injuries and act to prevent them.


    HypothermiaWhen exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body's stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. A body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and will not be able to do anything about it.


    Symptoms of hypothermia can vary depending on how long you have been exposed to the cold temperatures.

    Early Symptoms:

    • Shivering
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of coordination
    • Confusion and disorientation

    Late Symptoms:

    • No shivering
    • Blue skin
    • Dilated pupils
    • Slowed pulse and breathing
    • Loss of consciousness

    First Aid...

    Take the following steps to treat a worker with hypothermia:

    • Alert the supervisor and request medical assistance.
    • Move the victim into a warm room or shelter.
    • Remove their wet clothing.
    • Warm the center of their body first-chest, neck, head, and groin-using an electric blanket, if available; or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
    • Warm beverages may help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
    • After their body temperature has increased, keep the victim dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
    • If victim has no pulse, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).


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