Working in Cold Weather-December 2009

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

December 2009


IN THIS ISSUE: Working in Cold Weather

As the temperature drops, people who work outside are at risk of injury.  Each year, work-related fatalities occur from accidental exposures where escape from low environmental temperatures is not available and from immersion in low temperature water.

“Before work begins, it is important to consider whether it can be avoided or postponed,” explains Gary R. Ticker, CIH, CSP. “If not, investigate whether the environment can be changed with the use of enclosures, heaters, or other engineering controls. Especially avoid work near water. If work in cold weather can’t be avoided, a proper risk assessment is needed.”

Exposure to temperatures as high as 40 degrees F (4 degrees C), can have significant effects. Wind chill should be considered in the evaluation of cold exposure. When the temperature is 10 degrees C and the wind is 20 mph, the effective temperature is 0 degrees C.

When exposure to cold weather is unavoidable, employers must address these areas:

  • Provide insulated clothing. Multiple layers that can be added or removed as needed include an inner layer of clothes that absorb moisture and transport it away from body’s surface. An outer layer should be waterproof, windproof, and durable. Nose and ears, fingers and toes are the body parts most easily affected by frost bite and suitable head protection is needed as well.
  • Train employees. The warning signs or overexposure to cold weather include severe shivering, fatigue, loss of coordination, drowsiness, apathy, hallucinations, and resistance to help.  Skin may turn blue, then later pale and dry.  Breathing and heart rate slows down and loss of conscience may occur. If any of these signs appear work should stop and emergency action taken.
  • Schedule frequent breaks. The American Conference of Governmental Industrialists has guidelines to help you schedule breaks based on the outside temperature and wind speed.

Working in cold temperatures may be necessary. With employee involvement and planning, work can be accomplished safely.  For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health.   OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc.   Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.

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