The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes “cold stress” as a significant work-related danger during winter months. Here are some valuable tips to keep your workers warm and healthy as temperatures drop.
What Is “Cold Stress?”
According to OSHA, cold stress is a general term that encompasses a range of weather-related health concerns such as hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot. While OSHA maintains no specific regulations governing cold weather work, they do recognize an employer’s requirement to operate a workplace “free of recognized hazards.”
Winter months also bring the onset of colds and flu. Data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that companies lose $10.5 billion in medical costs and decreased productivity during flu season each year.
Tips to Prevent Cold-Related Injuries and Illnesses
– Educate employees about cold stress risk factors such as dressing improperly, working in wet clothes and consuming excessive caffeine.
– Implement radiant heaters and other engineering controls to keep the workplace warm.
– Schedule the bulk of work activities during warmer times of the day.
– Have supervisors monitor employees for signs of cold stress. If possible, assign workers in pairs.
– OSHA doesn’t require employers to provide coats, gloves and other winter wear, but many companies find it cost-effective to do so.
– Promote flu shots. Consider holding an on-site vaccination clinic or partnering with local pharmacies.
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