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Louisiana OSHA Cold Stress

Posted by Tamara

Cold stress and hypothermia can occur even at moderate temperatures of 50 degrees, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  OSHA also warns that employees need to take extra precautions in cold weather in order to avoid serious illness or injury.

There are many hazards posed by working in cold weather, including trench foot, frostbite, hypothermia, and cold stress.

It is extremely important that Louisiana employers are aware of these hazards, so that they can ensure that their employees remain protected.  Employees who work in industries such as agriculture, snow removal, roadwork, construction, or utilities are particularly at risk during the winter season.

When the body is not able to sufficiently warm itself, cold stress occurs.  Cold stress can overcome a worker on a gradual basis.  It can cause disorientation and confusion. Employees need to work in pairs so that each of them can watch the other for any signs of a cold-related illness or injury.  If left untreated, cold stress may advance to hypothermia, which may be a life-threatening situation.

Hypothermia sets in when the normal body temperature falls to 95 degrees or less.  Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, fatigue, clumsy movements, drowsiness, as well as a cool and slightly blue appearance to the skin.  Sometimes, victims of hypothermia are confused, irritable, or irrational.

Emergency help should be summoned immediately if a worker shows any signs of these symptoms.  While waiting for help to arrive, the victim should be put into a warm and dry area, if possible.  Any wet clothing should be removed so that the person can be wrapped in blankets, and dressed in dry clothes.

Hypothermia victims should be given warm, sweet beverages to drink, such as heated sports drinks or sugar water.  They should not be given any beverages containing caffeine, such as tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, as these drinks can slow the warming process.  Alcoholic beverages should also be avoided.

To create muscle heat, the injured person should be told to move his or her arms and legs.

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