Freezing conditions present extreme danger to outdoor workers

The recent mega snowstorm and frigid conditions had many New Jersey residents staying home from work and off the roads. But that option is a luxury that outdoor workers did not have even when the mercury dipped into the single digits.

The spate of harsh weather led to the director of the local Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office in nearby Philadelphia to issue warnings for both workers and the businesses that employ them.

Companies reminded to protect workers during extreme cold snaps

It’s one thing to work outdoors when the temps hit the 20s and 30s. But freezing conditions with temperatures in the teens or even colder call for additional measures to keep these workers safe from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather-related hazards.

The director stated, “With the temperatures and the increased wind speed your body is going to have to react . . . [In] those conditions, the heat from your body is . . .  removed quickly.”

The agency recommends several actions companies should take when frigid conditions prevail. They include:

  • Allowing workers to take more frequent breaks in warming sheds or inside the facility
  • Providing them with sufficient cold-weather gear to mitigate the temperatures
  • Provide employee training about the dangers of cold weather exposure

Workers can also protect themselves by layering their clothing and wearing wind- and snow-resistant outer garments to retain as much body heat as possible.

Don’t risk hypothermia at work

The director addressed the signs of hypothermia for outdoor crews to recognize in themselves and their coworkers that indicate immediate action is imperative:

  • Extreme shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Mental confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Stumbling gait
  • Low energy
  • Drowsiness
  • Weak pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Unconsciousness

Hypothermia can quickly become fatal unless immediate emergency treatment reverses the effects.

Did you suffer any on-the-job injuries or conditions due to the weather?

If so, you might need to file for workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and assist you financially while you recover.