Does OSHA protect against cold-weather injuries?

For employees that work outdoors this winter in New Jersey, there is a possibility for illness and injury due to extreme weather. Cold weather injuries and illnesses include frostbite, chilblain, hypothermia and more. Road construction workers, utility workers and any other employee who works outdoors have vulnerabilities to cold weather. OSHA states that it does not have specific standards for working in cold environments, but it does require employers to provide workers with employment that is free of hazards, including winter-related hazards.

In order to prevent cold stress, employers should have a number of preventative measures in place. The most important of these measures is to train workers on cold stress. You should have a clear understanding of cold stress, how to recognize the symptoms and basic knowledge of first aid. In addition, you need to know how to pick out the proper clothing for cold and wet conditions. For other winter-related hazards, such as slippery roads or fallen power lines, workers need some training on how to handle hazards.

Unprepared employees are unsafe employees. Employers may also use different engineering controls to assist employees. For instance, outdoor heaters and de-icing materials may be crucial to a safe workplace environment. While OSHA requires employers to provide protective equipment that protects a worker’s safety, it does not require employers to provide ordinary clothing items. This includes winter coats, raincoats, boots and gloves. However, to reduce injury, many companies do provide workers with winter gear.

None of the above information is meant to be legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.