Construction work is pretty dangerous, but add in extreme winter weather conditions and you are sure to experience variety of health emergencies that could lead to serious accidents or death if not treated seriously. Workers are at risk when they work at cold locations without any nearby heat, shelter, or insulation for warmth. During cold stress, heat can leave the body quickly, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention escaping mostly through the head area. Workers also face new hazards such as slippery roads and work surfaces.
Accidents linked to such weather hazards can always be prevented with proper training and preparation. Through planning, equipping, and training workers, OSHA.gov believes that workers can keep harm at bay at the job site. What constitutes training? What are employers’ obligations with regards to protecting workers from cold stress?
Workers should be trained on how to recognize changes in environmental and workplace conditions that causes cold stress; how to determine whether a person is suffering from cold stress; preventing cold stress; and emergency response procedures for those who have been affected by cold stress. As expected this training will also include the proper selection of personal protective equipment.
Employers should ensure that work conditions are safe for workers by evaluating their physical condition and implementing administrative (i.e. buddy systems, scheduled breaks, and the provision of warm, sweet beverages) and engineering controls (i.e. the use of radiant heaters).
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has no standard that addresses working at cold environments under the OSH Act of 1970. However, even if it’s not written in paper nor set in stone, employers are mandated by the Act to ensure a safe and healthful environment for workers, be it summer, winter or any season for that matter.
Never underestimate the importance of training in keeping workers safe. For more information, visit Keeping Safe during Winter: A Few Tips for Construction Workers, OSHAcampus’s guide on how to keep yourself warm and safe while working at near-freezing or extremely cold temperatures.