Working Effectively with Your Trickiest Colleague: Jack Frost

Working Effectively with Your Trickiest Colleague: Jack Frost

Here’s how to work safely in cold weather.

Mr. Jack Frost brings ice, snow and freezing temperatures to many parts of the U.S. during winter months. Many employees across the U.S. may consider Mr. Frost an unwelcome “coworker,” but with the right training, safety knowledge and preparation, you can work in winter weather safely and efficiently.

Avoiding Frostbite, Hypothermia and Cold Stress

For employees working outdoors in winter months, frostbite, hypothermia and cold stress can be dangerous—even fatal.

In addition to keeping an eye on the weather forecast to help you know how to prepare for work, knowing the wind chill temperature is also helpful. Wind chill is the temperature your body feels when air temperature and wind speed are combined. The National Weather Service (NWS) Wind Chill Calculator allows you to calculate the wind chill temperature quickly.

Cold temperatures force the body to work harder to maintain a healthy temperature. Recognizing the signs of frostbite and hypothermia and knowing how to apply first aid is also important for every employee on the worksite to know:

  • Hypothermia symptoms may include shivering, loss of coordination and function of the hands, confusion and disorientation, unable to walk or stand, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing and loss of consciousness.
  • What can be done for a person suffering from hypothermia?
    • Call 911 immediately in an emergency; otherwise seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
    • Move the person to a warm, dry area.
    • Remove wet clothes and replace with dry clothes and cover the body (including the head and neck) with layers of blankets and with a vapor barrier (e.g. tarp, garbage bag). Do not cover the face.
    • Give warm, sweetened drinks if the person is alert. Avoid drinks with alcohol.
    • Place warm bottles or hot packs in armpits, sides of the chest and groin.
  • Frostbite symptoms may include reddened skin with gray/white patches, numbness in the affected area, affected area feels firm or hard and blisters on the affected part.
  • What can be done for a person suffering from frostbite?
    • Follow the recommendations for hypothermia.
    • Loosely cover and protect the area from contact.
    • Do not rub the affected area to warm it because this action can cause more damage.
    • Do not apply snow/water.
    • Do not break blisters.
    • Do not try to rewarm the frostbitten area before getting medical help. For example, do not place in warm water. It is safer for the frostbitten area to be rewarmed by medical professionals.

Avoiding Slips and Falls

Sidewalks and walking surfaces can ice over in freezing temperatures, creating a slippery trap that increases the risk of trips and falls on worksites.

To avoid slips and falls during icy weather, follow these safety tips:

  • Clear snow and ice from walking surfaces.
  • Spread deicer as quickly as possible after a winter storm.
  • When walking on snow or ice is unavoidable, be sure to:
    • Wear footwear that has good traction and insulation (e.g. insulated and water-resistant boots or rubber over-shoes with good rubber treads)
    • Take short steps and walk at a slower pace to react quickly to changes in traction

Winter Driving Safety

Employers can promote safe driving behavior by ensuring workers recognize the hazards of winter weather driving, are properly trained for driving in winter weather conditions and are licensed for the vehicles they operate.

Winter conditions can be especially harsh on vehicles and machinery, so having an effective maintenance program in place for all company vehicles and equipment is essential. It’s important that they’re checked regularly to ensure parts and systems are working properly, including brakes, defrosters, windshield wipers, tires, exhaust systems, electrical systems, cooling systems and engines.

Company vehicles should also include an emergency kit with items such as a cellphone or two-way radio, windshield ice scraper, snow brush, flashlight with extra batteries, shovel, tow chain, snow chains for tires, water and blankets.

Additional Resources

For more details, resources and information to help ensure your worksite(s) and workforce are winter-ready, visit gov/winter-weather.

The NWS Wind Chill Calculator: This tool can help you calculate the wind chill temperature by inputting the temperature and wind speed.

OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program may also be able to help you with free emergency preparedness trainings and consultations. Find your local office and more information at gov/consultation.

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