Colder temps are officially here! Working in cold conditions isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be very dangerous and have adverse effects on our performance and health. Many industries and occupations require exposure to outdoor cold, necessitating precautions before venturing outside in order to avoid injury and stay safe.
While OSHA does not have a specific standard regarding working in cold environments, employers do have a responsibility to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards, this includes winter weather related hazards. Below are a few tips for preparing for and preventing winter workplace hazards.
- Provide safety training specific to winter weather.
- Slips, trips and falls happen year-round but winter snow and ice can increase the risk of these types of injuries. Clearing snow and ice immediately and wearing proper footwear go a long way in reducing this risk.
- Cold stress can result in frostbite, hypothermia and even death. Employers should train employees to recognize conditions that lead to cold stress, symptoms of cold stress and first aid, and proper clothing and PPE for working in cold and wet conditions. OSHA has a Quick Card--Protecting Workers from Cold Stress available on their website. It provides a reference guide and recommendations regarding Cold Stress. It is free to employers, workers and the public. Visit OSHA.gov for more information.
- Operating equipment and driving vehicles on snow or ice covered roads can be dangerous. Equipment refresher training or discussing these topics in a toolbox meeting can promote safe driving behavior and help employees recognize winter driving hazards.
- Implement safe work practices such as:
- Avoiding working in extremely cold temperatures.
- Limiting time working outdoors on cold days.
- Providing warm areas to use for breaks.
- Monitoring weather conditions and communicating this information to your employees
- Provide proper cold weather PPE.
- OSHA requires PPE be provided to employees, however, ordinary winter clothing is not included in this requirement. It is extremely important to educate employees on how to dress appropriately for working in the cold. Many employers provide their workers with winter weather gear in order to keep them safe and protected from the elements.
Before you or your employees work outdoors in the cold, make sure you are prepared. The Appruv Winter Preparedness Checklist can help evaluate worksite conditions and keep you and your workforce safe.
Download Winter Preparedness Checklist
OSHA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have teamed up to help educate people and improve the way we prepare for and respond to winter weather. More information and resources are available at https://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/winter_weather/index.html.