December 7, 2023

OSHA Offers Tips for Preventing Cold-Weather Illness/Injury

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers important winter weather reminders for avoiding workplace illness, injuries or fatalities in workplaces impacted by winter weather.

OSHA provides various resources aimed at improving the way people prepare for and respond to cold weather conditions. A few key reminders for employers this winter include:

Preventing Slips on Snow and Ice: To prevent slipping hazards employers should clear snow and ice from walking surfaces, and spread deicer, as quickly as possible after a winter storm. When walking on snow or ice is unavoidable workers should be trained to:

  • Wear footwear that has good traction and insulation (e.g. insulated and water-resistant boots or rubber over-shoes with good rubber treads)
  • Take short steps and walk at a slower pace to react quickly to changes in traction

Preventing Falls when Removing Snow from Rooftops and Elevated Surfaces: Employers should consider options to avoid working on roofs or elevated heights, plan for safe snow removal and must:

  • Provide required fall protection and training when working on the roof or elevated heights
  • Ensure ladders are used safely (e.g. clearing snow and ice from surfaces)
  • Use extreme caution when working near power lines
  • Prevent harmful exposure to cold temperatures and physical exertion

Avoid Cold Stress Hazards (e.g., Immersion/trench foot, frostbite, hypothermia): Although not specifically an OSHA standard, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized hazards, including cold stress hazards, that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm in the workplace. Employers should train and monitor workers on how to manage cold stress hazards.

  • Training should include:
    • How to recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that can lead to cold stress.
    • The symptoms of cold stress, how to prevent cold stress, and what to do to help those who are affected.
    • How to select proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions.
  • Monitoring should include:
    • Monitoring workers physical condition.
    • Scheduling frequent short breaks in warm dry areas, to allow the body to warm up.
    • Scheduling work during the warmest part of the day.
    • Using the buddy system (work in pairs).
    • Providing warm, sweet beverages and snacks.
    • Providing engineering controls such as radiant heaters.

Additional OSHA cold weather resources can be viewed on the OSHA’s winter weather webpage.

Members with questions about managing cold weather risk should contact Western Growers Insurance Services.