Stay Cool, but Not TOO Cool: Protecting Workers From Cold Stress

Promoting workplace safety has the dual benefit of protecting employees and simultaneously reducing the risk of Workers’ Compensation claims. Improved safety procedures also lessen the frequency and expense of Workers’ Compensation claims.  When insurance agents advise their commercial clients about safety best practices, they are providing a critically important service.  Winter weather is upon us and so many industries are subject to the outdoor weather elements on a daily basis.  This provides a unique opportunity for agents to add value to their commercial client base and our team is here to provide some tips to get started:

Transitioning to colder weather with caution.

Workers should slowly transition into performing their job duties under cold weather conditions, rather than immediately starting with prolonged hours. It takes time to acclimate and breaks should be provided liberally.

The dangers of cold weather.

There is no set rule for what constitutes dangerously cold temperatures. Your client must make safety decisions based on their unique circumstances. For example, factors such as wind chill and moisture level make moderately cold temperatures unbearable.

Best practices to protect workers from cold conditions:

  • Train workers to recognize the signs of cold stress and associated conditions as well as how best to avoid risk.
  • Stress the importance of staying dry and avoiding exposure to windy conditions.
  • Provide proper equipment for workers such as warm clothing, heaters, and access to warm beverages.
  • Allow workers to take frequent breaks and avoid prolonged exposure.
  • Schedule rigorous work for the warmest part of the day.
  • Place workers into teams or with partners to monitor one another for signs of illness.
  • Additional best practices and safety information are available on the OSHA website.

Protect your clients and their team through the cold season and encourage the adoption of comprehensive safety procedures. Prolonged exposure to cold conditions causes serious injury and sometimes death. The most common injuries resulting from exposure to cold temperatures are hypothermia and frostbite.

Hypothermia is a condition where the body loses heat faster than it is able to warm itself. In mild cases, it may manifest as shivering and general discomfort. If the body continues to cool, the symptoms become more severe.

Symptoms of severe hypothermia include a cessation of shivering, confusion, brain fog, slurred speech, dilated pupils, slowed breathing, and a loss of balance.

Frostbite occurs when cold temperatures cause the skin and underlying tissue to freeze. It most commonly occurs on the hands and feet. Initial symptoms of frostbite are grey and white patches on reddened skin. These eventually form blisters, and the affected area feels hard and numb.

Anyone suffering from these conditions should be treated as quickly as possible. It is also important to follow proper first aid treatment procedures to avoid causing greater harm. For further information on symptoms and treatment methods, see this guide provided by the CDC.

If an injury does occur, ensure your client is protected with the proper Workers’ Compensation policy. Connect with Risk Innovations to learn more.

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