A Must-Know Guide for Employers and Workers
In many lines of work, encountering cold weather hazards is an unavoidable reality. The importance of knowing how to deal with these hazards and react to possible injury or life-threatening situations cannot be stressed enough. Not only is it a matter of personal safety, but it’s also a legal requirement. In this blog post, we’ll explore the essential steps that employers and workers should take to protect themselves from cold weather hazards and remain OSHA-compliant. Additionally, we’ll spotlight the crucial role of institutions like LBA University® in providing OSHA-compliant training for workplace safety.
Understanding the Risks:
To fully grasp the significance of cold weather safety, let’s hear some stories from seasoned individuals who brave the cold daily in their respective professions. These real-life experiences underscore the importance of being prepared and vigilant in cold-weather environments. From downed utility lines to icy slopes and frigid Alaskan temperatures, the risks are ever-present.
- Downed Utility Lines: A broadcast engineer encountered a hazardous situation involving downed utility lines, underscoring the imperative of remaining vigilant when walking along service roads.
- Icy Slopes and Trailer Mishaps: While towing a TV production trailer on an ice-glazed slope, a near-disastrous situation unfolded, highlighting the essential need for proper equipment and precautions.
- Extreme Cold in Alaska: In Fairbanks, Alaska, where temperatures plummet to a bone-chilling -70 degrees, working at -20 is common, but when it plunges below -40, it’s officially an emergency. The relentlessness of the cold and its associated hazards is a real challenge.
- Unexpected Hazards: Even in milder climates, hazards can unexpectedly emerge. A warehouse supervisor shares an incident involving a slippery loading dock, underscoring the significance of remaining alert and adequately prepared.
The Silent Killer: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
Some cold weather hazards are not a direct result of the cold but of the methods used to keep warm. Malfunctioning heaters, improper heater use, and inadequate ventilation can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning—a silent killer. Understanding the symptoms and prevention measures is critical, as this dangerous gas is odorless and tasteless.
Learn more: National Center for Environment Health
Winter Weather Driving:
For businesses with employees driving company vehicles, winter weather presents an additional challenge. Knowing how to navigate treacherous road conditions and what to do in case of emergencies or being stranded is vital for employee safety.
Recommended Course: Driver Safety
Seeking Warm Weather Alternatives:
While some people may escape to warmer climate during the winter, this isn’t an option for everyone. Many workers must continue their jobs in cold weather conditions. Therefore, it’s crucial for them to be well-prepared and know what to do in case of emergencies.
OSHA-Compliant Cold Weather Hazards Training:
The need for OSHA-compliant training in cold weather safety cannot be overstated. Qualified providers like LBA University® offer comprehensive courses designed to create awareness of often-overlooked hazards. These courses equip employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent, mitigate, or respond to cold weather-related risks.
The CDC’s Recommendations:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides essential recommendations for both employers and workers to protect themselves from cold stress, irrespective of their specific job roles. These guidelines include:
- Scheduling jobs in warmer months whenever possible.
- Providing warm areas for breaks to allow workers to warm up and avoid prolonged exposure to the cold.
- Offering cold stress training to educate workers on the risks and how to mitigate them.
Precautions for Cold Weather Safety:
When working in cold weather, regardless of your profession, taking precautions is paramount:
- Dress warmly with layers of loose-fitting clothing to help retain body heat.
- Wear gloves and socks to protect extremities, and use head coverings, like hats or hoods, to prevent heat loss.
- Ensure that your boots have a good grip to prevent slipping on icy surfaces.
- Regularly check your vehicle’s battery and other essentials before heading into cold conditions, especially if it hasn’t been used for a while.
- If you get stuck, stay in the car, and run the engine for about ten minutes an hour to keep warm.
Understanding the Wind Chill Chart:
The Wind Chill Chart considers temperature and wind speed to calculate how cold it feels on your skin. For instance, a temperature of 20°F with a wind speed of 15 mph might result in a wind chill value of 6°F, making it feel much colder than the actual temperature. This matters because wind accelerates heat loss, increasing the risk of cold-related issues. By checking the wind chill, you can better gauge outdoor risks and take necessary precautions. It’s a crucial tool for staying safe in the cold.
Source: National Weather Service
Understanding Cold Weather Effects on the Body:
Cold weather makes your body work harder to maintain a normal temperature, which can lead to various health effects. Some common cold weather symptoms include headaches, fatigue, fever, chills, and more. It’s essential to recognize these signs to take appropriate action.
Cold Weather Injuries on the Job:
One of the most common cold injuries is cold exposure, which can affect anyone working in cold conditions. Cold exposure occurs when your skin meets cold surfaces or water. It can lead to various cold-related injuries:
- Frostnip is the stage before frostbite begins. It occurs when the tissue is cooling because of the constriction of blood vessels and the resulting inadequate blood supply to the area. Your skin may get pale or turn red and feel extremely cold or numb.
- Frostbite is a type of injury that can occur when your skin is exposed to the cold. Cold exposure can cause the top layer of your skin and some of the tissues beneath it to freeze. Frostbite is most common in your extremities, such as your fingers, toes, ears, and nose. In many cases, your skin can recover from frostbite. However, in severe cases, tissue death or loss can occur.
- Trench foot condition is caused by prolonged exposure to a cold temperature that is usually above freezing and damp, sometimes unsanitary conditions. It can cause skin and tissue breakdown, which can increase the risk of infection.
If you experience symptoms of cold-related injuries while on the job:
- Call for medical help immediately.
- Remove wet clothing and shoes before entering warm conditions.
- Gradually raise your body temperature using dry blankets and warm drinks.
The message is clear: cold weather hazards are real, and they can be life-threatening. Whether you’re working on a tower, a construction site, a rooftop, or in a warehouse, the risk of cold stress and slips and falls is ever-present. Safety education and awareness are not just good practices; they are mandatory under OSHA regulations.
LBA University® provides a cost-effective, OSHA-compliant Cold Weather Safety course to help workers and employers stay safe in cold weather conditions. Enroll online or contact LBA University for more information on how to protect yourself and your team from cold weather hazards.
Stay safe, stay warm, and remember that knowledge and preparation are your best defenses against the chill of winter.