The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes OSHA Quick Card, Protecting Workers from Cold Stress for outdoor workers, including construction workers and trade craft. The OSHA Quick Card highlights the following five areas about cold stress during cold weather and low temperature events, for safety and health on the construction site:

  1. Common types of cold stress;
  2. Risk factors;
  3. Prevention by the employer;
  4. Prevention by the worker, and;
  5. How to treat a worker suffering from cold stress.

OSHA explains that “cold temperatures and increased wind speed (wind chill) cause heat to leave the body more quickly, putting workers at risk of cold stress,” including construction workers and trade craft in the outdoors. The National Weather Service defines “wind chill” or “wind chill factor” as a measure of the effect of increased wind speeds that accelerate heat loss from exposed skin, during low temperature events and high wind events.

Three Common Types of Cold Stress

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that “…serious health problems can result from prolonged exposure to the cold.” Further, the OSHA Quick Card, Protecting Workers from Cold Stress highlights three common types of cold stress:

  1. Hypothermia;
  2. Frostbite, and;
  3. Trench foot or immersion foot.

Frosbite is when body tissues freeze.

The CDC defines frostbite as a “bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and color in affected areas…” which generally affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Further, the CDC warns that frostbite can permanently damage the body, and in severe cases, frostbite can lead to amputation.

Symptoms of Frostbite

OSHA Quick Card, Protecting Workers from Cold Stress notes that frostbite can occur at temperatures above freezing due to the wind chill or wind chill factor. Three signs of frostbite include:

  1. A white or grayish-yellow skin area;
  2. Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, and;
  3. Numbness.

Get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin!

The CDC recommends that at early signs of redness or pain in any skin area, “…get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin…” as frostbite can be starting. Further, the CDC notes that victims, including construction workers and trade craft, are in many cases unaware of frostbite until a co-worker notices it, as the frozen tissues are numb. If you are not properly dressed for cold weather and low temperature events, then you are at greater risk of developing frostbite!

About OSHA

OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA’s administrator answers to the Secretary of Labor, who is a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States.

OSHA’s Mission

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

About the CDC Organization

The CDC is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services. View CDC’s Official Mission Statements/Organizational Charts to learn more about CDC′s organizational structure.

CDC’s Mission

CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.

CDC increases the health security of our nation. As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. To accomplish our mission, CDC conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and responds when these arise.

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(Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA Quick Card, Protecting Workers from Cold Stress. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor, n.d. Print.)

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