Cold Weather Safety – Reducing Work Hours in Cold Weather
Is there a specific requirement for a reduction in work hours during certain cold weather conditions? This was an interesting question recently posed to LBA University’s ESH Services Director, Bryan Dixon.
As January nears an end many have already endured some very harsh conditions in this winter season. It’s about this time every year that the realization also hits that possibly the worst of winter is still yet to come. This means employers that have workers who spend much of their time, or even small portions of the workday, in the cold must continue to be vigilant. Is there a specific requirement for a reduction in work hours during certain cold weather conditions? This was an interesting question recently posed to LBA University, Inc. ESH Services Director, Bryan Dixon.
“In the USA, I am not aware of any mandate or ruling that specifically addresses reduction of work hours or what you must do during cold weather other than the OSHA General Duty Clause,” said Dixon.
The OSHA General Duty Clause states that employers have a responsibility to provide workers with employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards, including cold stress, which are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to them (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970).
“How you provide the hazard free environment or protection will vary depending on the extremes encountered along with the protection levels provided,” added Dixon.
Various initiatives and approaches can accomplish this particular OSHA requirement.
Accepted methods to ensure worker safety:
- Employers should train workers on the hazards of the job and safety measures to use, such as engineering controls and safe work practices, that will protect workers’ safety and health.
- Employers should train workers on how to prevent and recognize cold stress illnesses and injuries like frostbite and how to apply first aid treatment.
- Workers should be trained on the appropriate engineering controls, personal protective equipment and work practices to reduce the risk of cold stress.
- Employers should provide engineering controls. For example, radiant heaters may be used to warm workers in outdoor security stations. If possible, shield work areas from drafts or wind to reduce wind chill.
- Employers should use safe work practices. For example, it is easy to become dehydrated in cold weather. Employers therefore, can provide plenty of warm sweetened liquids to workers. Avoid alcoholic drinks. If possible, employers can schedule heavy work during the warmer part of the day.
- Employers can assign workers to tasks in pairs (buddy system), so that they can monitor each other for signs of cold stress.
- Workers can be allowed to interrupt their work, if they are extremely uncomfortable.
- Employers should give workers frequent breaks in warm areas. Acclimatize new workers and those returning after time away from work, by gradually increasing their workload, and allowing more frequent breaks in warm areas, as they build up a tolerance for working in the cold environment.
Safety measures, such as these, should be incorporated into the relevant health and safety plan for the workplace. Dressing properly is also extremely important to prevent instances of cold stress.
“The type of fabric worn also makes a difference. Cotton loses its insulation value when it becomes wet. Wool, silk and most synthetics, on the other hand, retain their insulation even when wet,” said Dixon.
Recommended cold weather clothing and clothing strategy:
- Do not wear tight fitting clothing.
- Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation with an inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to keep moisture away from the body, a middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet, and an outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
- Wear a hat or hood to help keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head.
- Use a knit mask to cover the face and mouth (if needed).
- Use insulated gloves to protect the hands (water resistant if necessary).
- Wear insulated and waterproof boots (or other footwear).
Extreme conditions are real hazards and injure and claim lives every year. While there are laws and regulations employers must follow to meet safety compliance requirements, smart, common sense strategies above and beyond the requirements of the law are never out of style.
“Prepare your employees for the outdoor environments they work in and never assume everyone already knows all they need to know,” said Dixon.
Training and more training is the best approach to ensuring that workers are protected. LBA University offers a Cold Exposure Safety course available on-line at a very cost effective rate. The course is OSHA compliant and a certificate is issued upon completion.
Online enrollment and more information on the LBA University Cold Exposure Safety course is available at: http://lbagroup.com/associates/cold-weather-exposure-safety-training.php. Also contact Bryan Dixon about the Cold Exposure Safety course or the many other safety training opportunities offered by LBA University at 252-757-0279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.