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Georgia OSHA Cold Stress


Posted by Tamara

There are a variety of Georgia employees who work outside in different industries, including roadwork, construction, utilities, agriculture, and snow removal.  These individuals are particularly at risk during the winter season.  In addition, emergency responders are at risk for cold-related illnesses and injuries. Employers should be aware of the various hazards that are posed by cold weather in the workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recently released an alert detailing the steps that employees should take to avoid such injuries.  Working in cold weather poses such hazards as hypothermia, cold stress, trench foot, and frostbite.

OSHA also warns that hypothermia and cold stress can occur even at 50 degrees.

When the body is unable to warm itself sufficiently, cold stress occurs.  Serious illness or injury is typically the result of windy or wet conditions, or low temperature.

Many people do not realize that hypothermia can occur even when temperatures are above freezing.  Hypothermia can also occur when workers are submerged or standing in water, if the water temperature is below 98.6 degrees.

Any time the normal body temperature drops from 98.6 degrees to 95 degrees or less, hypothermia sets in.  Symptoms of hypothermia include clumsy movements, slurred speech, uncontrolled shivering, drowsiness, and fatigue.  Also, the victim’s skin may appear cool and slightly blue.  In some cases, victims are confused, irritable, or irrational.

Employees can be overcome by cold stress gradually, so it is important that they work in pairs.  This makes it easier for them to watch for signs of cold-related illness.  If left untreated, cold stress can advance to hypothermia.  Hypothermia, of course, can be life threatening.

Emergency help should be called for immediately if any employee exhibits any symptoms of cold-related illness.  While waiting for assistance, the person should be moved into a warm, dry area, and wrapped in blankets, if possible.

Injured people should move their legs and arms in order to create muscle heat.  In situations where this is not possible, place warm water bottles or hot packs in the armpits, groin, neck and head areas.

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