Winter weather is here! Did you know that hypothermia can occur any time of the year? Most cases of cold stress develop in air temperature between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Actually, hypothermia occurs most often in the spring and fall, rather than winter. Anyone exposed to lower temperatures are at risk for cold related injuries.
Four factors contribute to cold stress: cold temperatures, high or cold wind, dampness, and cold water. In a cold environment, most of your body’s energy is used to keep you internal temperature warm. Your body shifts blood flow from your extremities (hands, feet, arms, and legs) and outer skin to the core (chest and abdomen). This allows your exposed skin and extremities to cool rapidly and increase the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Although the elderly and those taking certain medications are at greater risk, anyone working in a cold environment may be at risk.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests protecting workers by training the workforce about cold-induced illnesses and injuries. This training may include educating workers about the need to layer clothing, drink warm liquids, use the buddy system, and to take breaks in warm dry areas. Employees most also recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that lead to potential cold related illnesses and injuries.