Cold Stress FAQs

In the Northern Hemisphere colder temperatures and winds increase during this time of year putting workers at an higher risk for cold stress. While many employees believe they have the appropriate PPE and clothing, often times they will be overconfident in their abilities to resist the cold. It is important to remember the safety of your employees in cold weather conditions.

Below is a list of common types of cold stress and how to handle them:

  • Hypothermia
    • Body temperature drops below 95 degrees.
    • Shivering is present in mild conditions.
    • In severe conditions shivering stops, slurred speech and confusion are manifest in the victim. Can lead to loss of consciousness and death.
    • Call 911 in the event of an emergency.
    • Move victim to warm area and remove wet articles of clothing
    • Cover body with blankets and tarps.
  • Frostbite
    • Body tissues freezes.
    • Can occur in conditions above freezing due to wind.
    • Can result in amputation of affected areas.
    • Common symptoms are numbness, red skin with white/gray patches, skin feels hard to the touch.
    • Do not rub frostbitten area.
    • Do not walk on frostbitten feet.
    • Loosely cover affected areas to protect from contact.
    • Do not attempt to rewarm area unless directed to by emergency personnel.
  • Trench Foot
    • A non-freezing injury to the feet caused by long exposure to wet and cold conditions.
    • Results in swelling, redness, and blisters on the feet.
    • Remove wet clothing and air dry feet.
    • Seek medical attention.
Remind employees of the dangers of working in cold conditions. OSHA provides a free QuickCard on Protecting Workers from Cold Stress that you can distribute to your workers.

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