Winter Weather Be Prepared

Outdoor work requires proper preparation, especially in severe winter weather conditions. Although OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in cold environments, employers have a responsibility to provide workers with employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards, including winter weather related hazards, which are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to them (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970). Employers should, therefore, train workers on the hazards of the job and safety measures to use, such as engineering controls and safe work practices, that will protect workers’ safety and health.
Employers Should Train Workers
At a minimum train workers on:
  • Cold Stress:
    • How to recognize the symptoms of cold stress, prevent cold stress injuries and illnesses
    • The importance of self-monitoring and monitoring coworkers for symptoms
    • First aid and how to call for additional medical assistance in an emergency
    • How to select proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions
  • Other winter weather related hazards that workers may be exposed to, for example, slippery roads and surfaces, windy conditions, and downed power lines
    • How to recognize these hazards
    • How workers will be protected: engineering controls, safe work practices and proper selection of equipment, including personal protective equipment
Employers Should Provide Engineering Controls
Engineering controls can be effective in reducing the risk of cold stress. For example, radiant heaters may be used to warm workplaces like outdoor security stations. If possible, employers should shield work areas from drafts or wind to reduce wind chill.
Employers should use engineering controls to protect workers from other winter weather related hazards, for example, aerial lifts or ladders can be used for safely applying de-icing materials to roofs, to protect workers from the hazard of falling through sky lights.
Employers Should Implement Safe Work Practices
Safe work practices that employers can implement to protect workers from injuries, illnesses and fatalities include:
  • Providing workers with the proper tools and equipment to do their jobs
  • Developing work plans that identify potential hazards and the safety measures that will be used to protect workers
  • Scheduling maintenance and repair jobs for warmer months
  • Scheduling jobs that expose workers to the cold weather in the warmer part of the day
  • Avoiding exposure to extremely cold temperatures when possible
  • Limiting the amount of time spent outdoors on extremely cold days
  • Using relief workers to assign extra workers for long, demanding jobs
  • Providing warm areas for use during break periods
  • Providing warm liquids (no alcohol) to workers
  • Monitoring workers who are at risk of cold stress
  • Monitoring the weather conditions during a winter storm, having a reliable means of communicating with workers and being able to stop work or evacuate when necessary
  • Acclimatizing new workers and those returning after time away from work by gradually increasing their workload, and allowing more frequent breaks in warm areas, as they build up a tolerance for working in the cold environment
  • Having a means of communicating with workers, especially in remote areas
  • Knowing how the community warns the public about severe weather: outdoor sirens, radio, and television
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides multiple ways to stay informed about winter storms. If you are notified of a winter storm watch, advisory or warning, follow instructions from your local authorities: NOAA Weather Radio
Employers Should Consider Protective Clothing that Provides Warmth
Employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE), for example, fall protection, when required by OSHA standards to protect workers’ safety, and health. However, in limited cases specified in the standard (29 CFR 1910.132), there are exceptions to the requirement for employers to provide PPE to workers. For instance, there is no OSHA requirement for employers to provide workers with ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen (29 CFR 1910.132(h)(4)). Regardless of this, many employers provide their workers with winter weather gear such as winter coats/jackets and gloves.
Learn more about PPE requirements and how to design an effective PPE program: Personal Protective Equipment (OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page).
Dressing Properly for the Cold
Dressing properly is extremely important to preventing cold stress. When cold environments or temperatures cannot be avoided, the following would help protect workers from cold stress:
  • Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
    • An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic (polypropylene) to keep moisture away from the body. Thermal wear, wool, silk or polypropylene, inner layers of clothing that will hold more body heat than cotton.
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
    • An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating. 
  • Tight clothing reduces blood circulation. Warm blood needs to be circulated to the extremities. Insulated coat/jacket (water resistant if necessary)
  • Knit mask to cover face and mouth (if needed)
  • Hat that will cover your ears as well. A hat will help keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head.
  • Insulated gloves (water resistant if necessary), to protect the hands
  • Insulated and waterproof boots to protect the feet
Safety Tips for Workers
  • Your employer should ensure that you know the symptoms of cold stress
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers
  • Dress appropriately for the cold
  • Stay dry in the cold because moisture or dampness, e.g. from sweating, can increase the rate of heat loss from the body
  • Keep extra clothing (including underwear) handy in case you get wet and need to change
  • Drink warm sweetened fluids (no alcohol)
  • Use proper engineering controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by your employer
The original OSHA article and the source can be found here.

Winter Storms and Employee Safety

Within the next few months we will be
faced with the threat of severe winter storms hitting the New York area. We at
Lovell Safety Management Co., LLC saw an increase in the number of employee
injuries due to last year’s severe winter weather. Now is the perfect time to
spend a few minutes with your employees discussing their safety during these
Winter storms create a variety of hazards and can have lingering impacts
on everyday tasks and work activities.
Learning about how to
prepare for a winter storm and avoid hazards when they occur will help keep you
safe during the winter season.
and Hypothermia
Frostbite is a severe
reaction to cold exposure that causes freezing in the deep layers of skin and
tissue. Frostbite can cause permanent damage. It is recognizable by a loss of
feeling and a waxy-white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, nose, or ear
Hypothermia occurs when
the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. Symptoms of hypothermia include
uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling,
drowsiness, and exhaustion.
To avoid frostbite and
hypothermia, take frequent breaks and drink plenty of fluids (avoiding ones
with caffeine or alcohol).
Dressing Properly for the Cold
Wear at least three
layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic material to keep
moisture away from the body.
A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when
An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some
ventilation to prevent overheating.
Use a knit mask to
cover your face and mouth. A hat that covers your ears will help keep your
whole body warmer. Also, insulated and water proof boots gloves.
Walking safely on snow and ice
Whenever possible, clear
walking surfaces of snow and ice and use salt or its equivalent. In addition,
the following precautions will help reduce the likelihood of any injuries:

  • A pair of well-insulated boots with good rubber treads is a must for walking during or after a winter storm.
  • Take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction.
  • Be on the lookout for vehicles that may have lost traction and are slipping toward you. Be aware that approaching vehicles may not be able to stop at crosswalks or traffic signals.
  • At night, wear bright clothing or reflective gear, as dark clothing will make it difficult for motorists to see you.

Shoveling snow can be a strenuous
activity and can create the potential for exhaustion, dehydration, back
injuries, or heart attacks. Wearing the proper footwear, adequate layers of
clothing, and sunglasses (during the day) is a must.
Workers should warm up,
scoop small amounts of snow at a time, push the snow instead of lifting where
possible, and use the proper form if lifting is necessary. Use power blowers
whenever possible.
in a vehicle during a winter storm
Stay in the vehicle. You
may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow. Display a trouble
sign by hanging a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raising the hood.
Turn on the vehicle’s
engine for about 10 minutes each hour and run the heat to keep warm. Beware of
carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind
window slightly for ventilation.
Watch for signs of
frostbite and hypothermia. Do minor exercises to keep up circulation. Use newspapers,
maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation until help arrives.

Work Zone Traffic Safety
Workers being struck by vehicles or
mobile equipment lead to many work zone fatalities or injuries annually.
Drivers may skid, or lose control of their vehicles more easily when driving on
snow and/or ice covered roads. It is therefore, important to properly set up
work zones with the traffic controls identified by signs, cones, barrels, and
barriers, to protect workers. Workers exposed to vehicular traffic should wear
the appropriate high visibility vest at all times, so that they can be visible
to motorists
of Downed Trees
Clearing downed trees is a
critical job during a winter storm. When winter storms occur, downed trees can
block public roads and damage power lines. Emergency crews are often sent out
to clear downed trees during a winter storm. Potential hazards include:

  •       Electrocution
    by contacting downed energized lines or contacting broken tree limbs in contact
    with fallen lines.
  •       Falls
    from trees.
  •       Being
    struck or crushed by falling tree limbs or ice.
  •       Being
    injured by equipment such as chain saws and chippers.

Proper protective
equipment should be worn by workers using chainsaws and chippers. Only
appropriate power equipment that is built to be used outdoors and in wet conditions
should be used. It is important that all equipment is well-maintained and functioning
correctly in order for use. In addition, all equipment should have proper
guarding, working controls, and other safety features as installed by the

Clearing Snow from Roofs and
Working at Heights
There have been16
fatalities in the past 10 years due to employees clearing snow from roofs. Following
a winter storm, workers should employ standard protections when working at
heights and should also be aware of the potential for unexpected hazards due to
the weather. Employers should provide and ensure the use of fall protection and
provide and maintain ladders. In addition, workers should use caution around
surfaces that have been weighed down by snow, as they may collapse.
Company owners, supervisors and employees all play a key role in
preventing employee injuries. Owners are responsible for providing a safe and
healthy workplace, the needed tools, protective equipment and training. Supervisors
must be empowered to discipline employees for at risk behavior and employees
must do their job safely.
We all need to take responsibility for safety and the prevention of work
site injuries. Safety, especially during winter storms, must be an integral
part of the way we work. That is the only way to create a truly safe and
healthy workplace.
For further information on
winter storm safety: