Severe weather is just around the corner as we head into the colder winter months. Even though OSHA may not have specific standards covering working in cold environments, employers have a responsibility to provide their employees a safe working environment, including winter weather related hazards, which could cause or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Offering training on cold stress and other winter weather related hazards they may be exposed to is important for workplace safety, as well as implementing safe workplace practices. Here are some practices to keep in mind:
- Cold Stress
- Recognizing the symptoms of cold stress and preventing cold stress injuries and illnesses
- Importance of monitoring both yourself and your coworkers for symptoms
- Applying first aid and knowing when to call for medical emergencies
- Knowing the proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions
- Recognizing other winter weather hazards, including but not limited to slippery surfaces, windy conditions, and even downed power lines, and how workers will be protected:
- Engineering controls, including radiant heaters, de-icing materials
- Implementing safe work practices, including, but not limited to providing the proper tools and equipment, developing work plans to identify potential hazards and safety measures to protect workers, providing warm areas for use during breaks, acclimating new workers or those returning after time away to the cold weather work, and monitoring weather conditions and employees who are at risk for cold stress and having a way to contact them
- Consider providing protective clothing, such as winter coats and gloves, and educating your employees on the importance of dressing properly
- Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing for better insulation
- No tight clothing as it restricts blood circulation, which helps warm blood to circulate to their extremities
- Hat, mask, insulated gloves and waterproof boots to top it off!
Implementing these practices can help keep your employees safe (and warm) this winter!