Feb 03 2021

Working in a Winter Wonderland

This time of year can bring cold temperatures, wind that cuts like a knife, and slippery surfaces which can be dangerous for those who work outside or in a cold environment such as a freezer. 

Winter weather brings new hazards to the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),  in 2014 there were 42,480 injuries involving ice, sleet, or snow. Among these 82% were due to falls on the same level. In 2016, 20,520 injuries were due to falls that resulted in a day or more away from work. 28% of winter weather injuries resulted in more than a month off work. 

These falls caused:

  • Broken bones 
  • Concussions
  • Herniated discs
  • Strains/Sprains

Along with slips, trips, and falls, cold-related illnesses can affect workers during these winter months. Workers who have poor circulation, exposure to wetness/dampness, dressed improperly, exhaustion, and sedentary workers are more susceptible to cold stress. 

Cold stress can lead to:

  • Trench Foot
  • Frostbite
  • Chilblains
  • Hypothermia

To minimize the risk of cold stress in the workplace, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), recommends a cold-related illness and injury prevention program be put in place. A proactive workplace program can be invaluable in helping your employees maintain productivity and reduce the risk of injury despite colder conditions.  

  • Training for employees on how to:
    • Recognize environmental conditions that could lead to cold stress
    • Identify symptoms of cold stress
    • Prevent cold stress
    • Select proper clothing 
    • Selecting proper footwear that has a good grip, insulated, and water resistant
    • Maintain proper hydration and eat a well-balanced diet
  • During cold weather employers should implement:
    • Monitoring of workers’ physical conditions especially those who have known risk factors
    • Personnel on-site that is familiar with cold injury prevention, recognition, and treatment approaches
    • Frequent short breaks in warm dry areas
    • Scheduled work during the warmest part of the day
    • Work in pairs (so employees can monitor each other for signs of cold stress)
    • Warm beverages available for employees
    • Implement engineering controls such as radiant heaters

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists recommends the following Warm Up Schedule for work in cold temperatures.

Exposure to cold temperatures can potentially be dangerous and with increased risk for injury/illness.  Developing a cold-related illness and injury prevention program will help to prevent any new hazards brought on by winter weather, and a solid plan can help protect your employees and enhance your team’s productivity.  

TRS|Wellness can help your company develop a solid plan to protect your employees and enhance your team’s productivity in cold weather.  Please contact us if you need support.

 

Beth Goodwin

Athletic Trainer