Working in the Cold
Goals: This safety session should teach employees to
Recognize the hazards and symptoms of exposure to cold.
Know how to prevent and respond to cold exposure.
Applicable Regulations: General Duty Clause Sec. 5(a), 1910.132
- Overexposure to Cold-Indoors or Outdoors-Can Be Harmful to Health
- Frostbite. Body tissues may freeze when skin is exposed to extreme cold or touches a very cold object.
- The nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, and toes are at greatest risk.
- Worst cases can cause permanent tissue damage, loss of movement in affected parts, and possibly unconsciousness and death from heart failure.
- Damage may be greater if the body part is thawed, then refrozen.
- Hypothermia. Exposure to cold may send body temperatures to dangerously low levels.
- It can occur in above-freezing temperatures when it's windy or you're exhausted or wearing wet clothes.
- Worst cases can lead to unconsciousness and death.
- Factors that increase the risks of frostbite and hypothermia include:
- Smoking and drinking
- Certain medications, allergies, or poor circulation
- Victims' failure to recognize symptoms and take prompt action
- Reduce the Risks of Exposure to Extreme Cold
- Avoid bathing, smoking, or drinking alcohol before going into cold conditions.
- Wear layers of loose, dry clothes.
- If possible, wear wool underneath and a waterproof layer on top.
- Always cover hands, feet, face, and head in the cold.
- An uncovered head can make the body lose up to 40 percent of its heat.
- Change or get dry immediately if clothes get wet.
- Keep moving while working in the cold. Take regular breaks in warm areas.
- Move to a warm area when you start to feel very cold or numb.
- Have a warm alcohol-free, caffeine-free drink.
- Recognize Frostbite and Hypothermia Symptoms
Frostbite symptoms include:
- Feeling extremely cold, then numb-with possible tingling, aching, or brief pain.
- White or grayish yellow glossy skin, which may blister.
- Confusion, failing eyesight, and shock as condition progresses.
- Hypothermia symptoms include:
- Chills, shivering, numbness and sometimes pain in the extremities.
- Slurred speech, poor coordination, confusion, drowsiness.
- Respond Quickly and Correctly to Frostbite and Hypothermia Symptoms
Act immediately when symptoms develop to prevent serious problems.
- Move to a warm place.
- Replace frozen, wet, or tight clothes with warm clothes or blankets.
- Drink a warm beverage-without alcohol or caffeine.
- Get medical help after first aid treatment.
- Take first aid actions for frostbite:
- Warm the frozen part immediately with blankets or warm (not hot) water.
- Avoid touching the frozen part; don't rub or hit it.
- Keep the frozen part away from hot stoves, heat lamps or hot water bottles.
- Don't break blisters or drink anything with caffeine.
- Exercise the body part once it's warm-but don't walk on frostbitten feet.
- Take first aid actions for hypothermia:
- Cover victim with blankets-and/or lie next to person to give body heat.
- DON'T use hot baths, electric blankets, or hot water bottles.
- Keep the person awake and give artificial respiration if needed.
- Get emergency help immediately if the person loses consciousness.
Conclusion: When It's Cold, Be Constantly Alert to Health Hazards
Dress and move to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Act immediately if you or someone around you experiences any symptoms.