Wisconsin Cold OSHA

Employers have a responsibility to establish safety protocols for employees who work in cold temperatures.

OSHA (Occupation Safety and Health Administration) recommends some straightforward steps to help employees avoid cold weather hazards, such as Trench foot and frostbite.

All Wisconsin employees should understand cold weather safety protocols, and be trained to recognize symptoms of cold exposure. Companies can erect temporary shelters for outdoor workers to cut the effects of the wind, and ensure that all metal handles on equipment is covered with insulating material.

Companies should also encourage employees to drink plenty of fluids and eat warm, high calorie meals. Tea and other caffeinated drinks should be avoided, because they impede the body’s ability to warm itself. Other factors can affect body warmth, too, such as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. A wise employee is aware of these factors and pays attention to how his or her body reacts to cold weather.

Proper cold weather gear is vital. Companies can provide workers with special cold weather gear, but employees should understand how to dress for the job. What is worn and how it’s worn are both important. OSHA recommends workers wear at least three layers of clothing, keep their head covered and wear insulated footwear.

Of the three layers, cotton should be worn closest to the body to provide ventilation. Wool or down should be the middle layer to absorb sweat and to insulate. Unlike cotton, wool continues to insulate even when wet.

The outer layer should be comprised of nylon or Gortex to cut the wind. Employees should also keep a change of dry clothes in the event their work clothes get soaked.

Working outside in cold temperatures is best done at the warmest part of the day. Breaks should be frequent and in a warm area away from the cold. Employees should also work as pairs and watch each other for signs of exposure, including irrational behavior, confusion and disorientation.

Wisconsin Cold Stress

During the winter months, employees are particularly susceptible to the hazards of cold stress, frostbite and hypothermia in the workplace. Now that country is in the depths of winter, OSHA, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, wants to remind employers, including those in Wisconsin, to be aware of these potential hazards.

According to OSHA, these hazards can occur even at temperatures as high as 50 degrees. Wind, rain and cold can all combine to cool the body to the point where it can not warm itself. The result is cold stress. Cold stress is a less severe form of hypothermia, but can in some cases be fatal.

Outdoor workers are more at risk for cold stress, but all employees can be in danger during the winter. All employees should take certain safety measures to help reduce and prevent the hazards of cold stress.

First of all, every worker should dress appropriately for the existing weather conditions. Wearing layers of clothes is a good way to adapt to changes in temperature. Workers should also avoid getting wet, especially when it’s windy.

Secondly, employees should take frequent breaks and go inside to a warm area or into a heated vehicle. If going indoors isn’t possible, then the worker should get out of the wind and drink warm beverages like broth. Meals, too, should be warm and preferably rich in carbohydrates.

Thirdly, people who work outside should avoid caffeine and alcohol. Both reduce the body’s ability to get warm.

Cold weather draws heat away from the body. The colder the temperature, the harder the body works to get warm. The body’s top priorities for heat are the internal organs. To warm the organs, heat is drawn away from the extremities, leaving hands, feet, legs, arms, ears and the nose at greater risk for frostbite.

Older workers and persons on medications can be more susceptible to the hazards of cold weather. Bodies, as they age, tend to become less efficient at staying warm. Medicines such as antidepressants and tranquilizers, along with sedatives, can negatively affect body temperature, too.

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