From construction and highway maintenance crews to utilities and public safety personnel, going to work in the winter often means going to work in frigid conditions. Cold stress and frostbite are just as real – and dangerous – as heat stroke.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration encouraged employees and employers to participate in a Winter Weather Stand Down on Jan. 22. The safety program focuses on proper cold protection gear and safety issues unique to the winter months. Taking a few hours to train, equip and prepare could literally save life and limb.
Will your employer support the Stand Down?
Encourage your employer or co-workers to observe OSHA’s Winter Weather Safetty Stand Down during the month of January. Participants stop all work on the job site – or before heading outdoors for the day – to discuss critical safety measures for the cold weather months.
While OSHA does not have specific standards for cold weather work, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act mandates that employers provide safe working conditions. In the winter, that includes:
- Training workers about cold stress and first aid, working in windy conditions, working near downed power lines, driving in slippery or low visibility conditions.
- Providing engineering controls at job sites such as radiant heaters, de-icing materials, slip protection when working on roofs or heights
- Safe work practices such as providing winter clothing, developing a buddy system or reliable communications with field workers, frequent work breaks or working in shifts, work planning to limit outdoor exposure.
Read more about OSHA’s training materials and safety tips for winter weather for winter weather.
Weather-related injuries are covered by workers’ comp
Cold stress can result in frostbite, hypothermia, trench foot or cardiac arrest. This could result in permanent damage to extremities, permanent nerve damage or other disabilities if not death. Even if your employer provided cold weather gear, you are covered by New Jersey workers’ compensation if you require medical treatment or time off from work as a result.