December 22, 2021
Dangers cold stress safety training image

Extremely cold weather conditions and increased wind speed can create a hazardous work environment and put workers at risk of cold stress. What constitutes extreme cold and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions that are not used to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered "extreme cold." A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature.


  • Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95°F. Exposure to cold temperatures causes the body to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up the body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature
  • Frostbite is caused by the freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Amputation may be required if frostbite is not addressed
  • Trench foot happens when your feet are exposed to wet and cold conditions for an extended length of time. Injury occurs because wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet


  • Know the symptoms of cold stress; monitor yourself and your co-workers
  • Drink warm, sweetened, non-alcoholic fluids
  • Dress properly. Wear a hat or hood to help keep your body warmer. Use a knit mask to cover the face and mouth, if needed. Use insulated gloves to protect the hands — water resistant, if necessary. Wear insulated and waterproof boots or other footwear. Be sure that your outer layer of clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton
  • Stay dry — wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm
  • Avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing or fueling your car or snow blower. Skin contact with these fluids greatly increases heat loss from the body
  • Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors


Employers must prevent illnesses, injuries, or fatalities by controlling hazards in workplaces, including those caused by winter weather. Employers can help workers by providing appropriate training, rotating workers in cold jobs, providing additional heaters, establishing a buddy system, and keeping first aid supplies and equipment available.

For more information on Cold Stress, visit OSHA’s webpage:

To view OSHA’s “Protecting Workers from Cold Stress” quick card: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3156.pdf

Credit to: OSHA & CDC

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