WASHINGTON - With the onset of cold weather, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers and workers to take necessary precautions, such as those listed on OSHA's Cold Stress Card, to prevent and treat cold-related health problems. Contractors and technicians are among those who need to take precautions.
Prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures can cause serious health problems such as trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia.
OSHA's Cold Stress Card provides a reference guide and recommendations to help prevent illnesses and injuries. The laminated fold-up card is free to employers and workers. Tips include:
Train workers about cold-induced illnesses and injuries. Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions. Be sure workers in extreme conditions take a frequent short break in warm, dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up. Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day. Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm. Use the buddy system - work in pairs so that one worker can recognize danger signs. Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) and avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas, or hot chocolate) or alcohol. Eat warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes. Remember that workers face increased risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical condition, or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, or cardiovascular disease.
For free copies of OSHA's Cold Stress Card, visit www.osha.gov.
Publication date: 12/22/2003