To prevent injuries, illnesses and Fatalities during winter storms.
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.
At a minimum train workers on:
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.
Safe work practices that employers can implement to protect workers from injuries, illnesses and fatalities include:
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 is extremely important to preventing cold stress. When cold environments or temperatures cannot be avoided, the following would help protect workers from cold stress:
CDC Checklist: Winter Weather Supplies for Your Car. Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Checklist and Tips for Safe Winter Driving (PDF). National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Cold Stress. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
NIOSH Fast Facts: Protecting Yourself from Cold Stress (PDF). National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOSH).
NOAA Weather Radio. A network of radio stations that continuously broadcast weather information from the nearest National Weather Service office.
Outdoor Safety. Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Winter Weather Checklists. Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Winter Your Car and You. National Safety Council (NSC), (2009, April).
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