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Working in the cold? OSHA offers safety advice

January 11, 2002
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As we head into the dead of winter, OSHA reminds employers and workers to take simple precautions, such as those listed on OSHA's Cold Stress Card. The card provides recommendations that can prevent many illnesses and injuries due to prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures.

Available in English and Spanish, this laminated fold-up card is free to employers to distribute to their workers, offering a quick reference about frostbite and hypothermia, including warning signs and prevention tips. The card makes the following suggestions for protecting workers:

  • Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that lead to potential cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to help workers.
  • Train workers about cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
  • Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, and to layer clothing.
  • Allow workers to take frequent short breaks in warm dry shelters to allow the body to warm up.
  • Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day.
  • Avoid exhaustion or fatigue, since 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.

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 in English or Spanish, click on OSHA's Web site, www.osha.gov, then Newsroom, followed by Publications.

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