Freezing Winter Temperatures Create Thermal Risks for Many Workers
The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® (ABIH®) reminds workers and industry of the many dangers inherent in working in cold environments.
Certified Industrial Hygienists are uniquely qualified to help prevent cold stress injuries and illnesses in the workplace.
With less than a month remaining this winter season, many workers in the Northern Hemisphere have been experienced freezing weather during their daily routines. Each year, workers in a wide range of industries succumb to cold stress and in some circumstances may even develop hypothermia or frostbite.
Cold stress can be encountered in many types of work environments. These include occupations where workers spend a large portion of their time outdoors during the winter months. It can also include employees working in indoor environments that involve industrial refrigeration and freezing.
Cold stress illnesses and injuries are preventable and employers are responsible for providing a safe work environment for all their workers. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “In a cold environment, most of the body’s energy is used to keep the internal core temperature warm. Over time, the body will begin to shift blood flow from the extremities (hands, feet, arms, and legs) and outer skin to the core (chest and abdomen). This shift allows the exposed skin and the extremities to cool rapidly and increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Combine this scenario with exposure to a wet environment, and trench foot may also be a problem.”
A combination of frigid temperatures and windy conditions can cause heat to leave a worker’s body very quickly. This is known as wind chill and is the temperature a person feels when air temperature and wind speed are combined. OSHA provides the following example, if the air temperature is 40°F and the wind speed is 35 mph, the effect on any exposed skin is as if the air temperature was 28°F.
“Cold stress illnesses and injuries can range from hypothermia and frostbite to trench foot when moisture enters the equation,” said Susan Ripple, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “Certified Industrial Hygienists are uniquely qualified to help prevent cold stress injuries and illnesses in the workplace. CIHs are trained to recognize and prevent conditions involving cold stressors along with additional core competencies that include engineering controls and ventilation; health risk analysis and hazard communication; and work environments and industrial processes. These are instrumental for ensuring a safe work environment that will not expose workers to excessive thermal stressors that can lead to illnesses, injuries and in extreme circumstances, death.”
To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene®, Certified Industrial Hygienist® credential or to locate a CIH® to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit www.ABIH.org, email abih@ABIH.org or call (517) 321-2638.
About the American Board of Industrial Hygiene ®
Since 1960, ABIH®, a not-for-profit corporation, has been the world’s largest organization for certifying professionals in the practice of industrial hygiene. ABIH® is the premier credentialing body responsible for ensuring high-quality certification including education, experience, examination, certification maintenance and ethics enforcement. Currently, more than 6800 people in 32 countries are certified to use the CIH® designation.
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