As cold fronts spread across the country, lower temperatures mean construction workers who work outside have to take special precautions to prevent cold-related health problems.
Prolonged exposure to winter weather can cause frostbite, hypothermia and trenchfoot. While most cases are serious but not fatal, death can result if a person is submerged under very cold water. Employers are urged to watch out for uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsiness, fatigue and confusion.
The Occuaptional Safety and Health Administration warns employers and workers to take the necessary steps to protect workers against the frigid weather. OSHA provides Cold Stress Cards, which are available in English and Spanish and are free to employers, workers and the public. The fold-up card lists precautions that should be taken to avoid. Some of their suggestions include:
·Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and train workers about them.
·Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions.
·Be sure workers in extreme conditions take a frequent short break 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.
·Work in pairs so that one worker can recognize the danger signs.
·Drink warm, sweet beverages and avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
·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.
To receive copies of OSHA’s Cold Stress Card, call 1-800-321-OSHA, or click on the link to the right.