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Tips For Workers in Cold Environments

Dear Campus Community, Colleagues

In light of the recent cold exposure incident that caused the hospitalization of a UMD student this past weekend, the UMD Environmental Health and Safety Office would like to remind the campus community of the hazards associated with cold stress, especially those of you who work or spend prolonged amount of time in cold environments.

Prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures may cause serious health problems such as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. In extreme cases, including cold water immersion, exposure can lead to death. Danger signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue and confused behavior.  If these signs are observed, call 911 immediately.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) has developped a Cold Stress Card that serves as a reference guide for recommendations to combat and prevent cold related illnesses and injuries. 

How to protect
yourself and your employees
  • Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that may be dangerous.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to help workers.
  • Train workers about cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
  • Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions.
  • Be sure employees who work in extreme conditions take frequent short breaks in warm dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up.
  • Try to schedule work outside during the warmest part of the day.
  • Advise employees to avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
  • encourage employees to use the buddy system - work in pairs so that workers can watch for each other one worker can recognize danger signs and call for help.
  • Drink or encourage workers to drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) but avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
  • Eat warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes.
  • Remember, 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.

For employee training on cold stress you may contact us at:

Source: OSHA.GOV
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