With winter having come upon most of the nation, OSHA is encouraging employers and employees to take necessary precautions to prevent and treat cold weather-related health problems.

OSHA offers its Cold Stress Card, which provides a reference guide and recommendations to combat and prevent many cold weather-related illnesses and injuries. Available in English and Spanish, the laminated card is free to employers, employees and the public.

The card provides tips on how to protect employees, such as:

• Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that may be dangerous.

• Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to help employees.

• Train employees about cold-induced illnesses and injuries.

• Encourage employees to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions.

• Be sure that employees in extremely cold conditions take frequent, short breaks 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 employee 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 employees increase their risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical condition or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease.

Free copies of OSHA's Cold Stress Card, in English or Spanish, are available at OSHA's Web site,www.osha.gov, or call 202-693-1888.