Throughout the range of possible workplace temperatures, safeguarding the health and well-being of employees is paramount. Despite equal importance, the development of a coordinated program to prevent cold injury receives much less attention than its heat-related counterpart.
An effective cold injury prevention program consists of the same components as a heat illness prevention program. These include the measures used in environmental assessment, exposure limits, policies and procedures, training plans, program assessment processes, and other information relevant to work in a cold environment. Like its heat-related counterpart, this is nominally a prevention program; however, information about the proper response to the occurrence of cold injury, such as first aid practices, is also included.
Given the similar natures of the heat- and cold-related programs, it should come as no surprise that this installment of the “Thermal Work Environments” series parallels that of “Part 5: Managing Conditions in Hot Environments.” In the outline for a cold injury prevention program that emerges, cold stress hygiene and various control mechanisms are introduced. This outline can be customized to the specific needs of an organization or workplace.
Development of effective cold stress indices has garnered significantly less attention than that of heat stress indices (see Part 4). Perhaps this is explained, at least in part, by the lesser threat to life posed by cold stress, as explained in Part 7. Whatever the reason, this difference does not indicate lesser importance. Cold stress and cold injuries are serious conditions that effect workers in many ways and have both short- and long-term consequences. Monitoring environmental conditions and worker well-being is as critical a responsibility in cold environments as it is in hot ones.
This installment of the “Thermal Work Environments” series parallels the discussion in Part 4, beginning with a widely-reported, if not widely-understood, index used in weather forecasting, followed by a discussion of application in industrial settings. Readers are encouraged to review the discussions of heat and cold indices in conjunction.
Loss of heat balance in a cold environment leads to cold injury, an umbrella term for several afflictions, of varying severity, resulting from overexposure to low temperatures. Recognizing symptoms of cold injuries is critical to timely treatment and successful recovery.
This installment is a companion to Part 3 (“Heat Illness”) of the “Thermal Work Environments” series, in which a range of cold-related effects and injuries are presented. The objective of this discussion is to raise awareness of the risks of working in cold environments and the severity of potential outcomes. These are serious conditions, all but the mildest of which require medical attention from trained healthcare professionals.
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