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OSHA urges employers to be aware of winter hazards

Folks here in Georgia do not see the same kind of cold that our neighbors in the north do. However, it is a fact that the temperatures do drop and it does not need to be sub-zero for workers to suffer from weather-related injuries or illness.

The U.S. Department of Labor has now issued a warning that employers and employees take necessary precautions during the winter months. Employees may not be used to working in the cold and fail to dress accordingly, or they fail to maintain proper levels of hydration, which is harder to monitor but still important during the winter months.

According to the CDC's website, typically weather-related injuries are hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot or chilblains (a painful itching or swelling of skin). There are also other related complications from the weather and long nights, such as slippery roads or carbon monoxide fumes from generators or vehicles.

6 tips for safely working in the cold

Here are several tips to foster a safe working environment:

  1. Add extra staff: Physically demanding jobs are harder in the cold and will take longer.
  2. Provide training: Educate workers on the signs of cold-related distress and recognizing potential dangers that can be addressed or avoided.
  3. Pay attention to weather reports: This enables management to schedule outdoor work during the warmest part of the day, or not during snow or rain.
  4. Provide a warm area for breaks: This will help keep the body temperature regulated.
  5. Keep an eye on workers: Using that training, management and co-workers should look for signs of weather-related issues.
  6. Have a cold weather first aid kit: This should include chemical hot packs, a thermometer and blankets.

Injuries and illness come at a cost

An important part of a business’s viability is ensuring that it provides a safe work environment. This can help avoid staffing issues from employees calling in sick as well as more costly and long-term disruptions from severe injuries. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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