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Alabama OSHA Cold Stress

Posted by Tamara

Employers in Alabama should be aware of the hazards posed by cold weather in the workplace.  Workers who are particularly at risk include those who work outside in such industries as utilities, agriculture, roadwork, snow removal, and construction.  Those who work as emergency responders are especially at risk, for cold-related illnesses and injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has detailed steps that employees should take in order to avoid injury.  Some of the hazards that are posed by working in cold weather include trench foot, frostbite, cold stress, and hypothermia.

It is possible for hypothermia and cold stress to occur at a moderate temperature such as 50 degrees.

When the body is not able to warm itself adequately, cold stress may occur.  When serious illness or injury results, it is due to windy or wet conditions, in addition to low temperatures.

It is important to know that cold stress can overcome a worker on a gradual basis.  Employees should work in pairs so that they can keep an eye out for any signs of cold-related illness in their partner.  If left untreated, cold stress may advance to hypothermia.

Symptoms of hypothermia can include slurred speech, uncontrolled shivering, clumsy movements, fatigue, and drowsiness.  It generally sets in when the normal body temperature drops to 95 degrees or less.  Other signs of hypothermia are a cool and slightly blue appearance to the skin.  Those suffering from hypothermia may be irrational, confused, or irritable.

Victims of hypothermia should drink warm, sweet beverages, including heated sports drinks or sugar water.  Any beverages containing caffeine should be avoided, because they can slow warming.  Alcohol should also be avoided.

Injured people should move their legs and arms to create muscle heat.  Should this not be possible, place hot packs or warm water bottles on the groin, neck and head areas, and in the armpits.  A person’s body should never be rubbed, nor should they be placed in a hot water bath because this could result in heart failure.

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