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OhioBWC - Home:  Current News

For immediate release: January 13, 2015

Be safe Ohio, it's cold out there!

Ohio - With snow, ice and temperatures that have dipped well below zero, now is the time for Ohio employers to review what they're doing to protect their employees from the dangers associated with working outside.

"Creating a cold weather plan and consistently reviewing it with employees can help reduce injuries due to the reduced temperatures," said Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. "We encourage employers that don't have a plan or need assistance to contact BWC's Division of Safety and Hygiene for an individualized consultation with one of our workplace safety professionals."

Exposure to cold can depress the nervous system, affecting both motor coordination and mental capacity, which can contribute to higher rates of accidents and impact work performance. A worker may stop thinking rationally; make poor decisions, panic and fail to take advantage of life saving actions.

BWC recommends employers take the following steps to protect their workers:

  • Ensure proper training so employees understand how to protect themselves and how cold can affect their bodies. Cold stress does not occur only when conditions are below freezing; it can also occur when temperatures are warmer but combined with rain and wind. Discuss the signs and symptoms of cold stress*, preventive measures and actions to take in an emergency.
  • Minimize exposure by providing heat sources, adjusting work schedules, incorporating work/rest and cycles and crew rotations to allow re-warming. Encourage employees to pace themselves and create a buddy system to look after one another.
  • Allow gradual acclimation periods to adjust to extreme conditions.
  • Provide insulating clothing, wind barriers and prevent exposure to moisture with special attention to the feet, hands, ears, face.
  • Encourage hydration by drinking plenty of fluids, which is just as important in the cold as in the heat. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages as both increase susceptibility to cold stress ailments.
  • Avoid direct contact with cold objects, which can cause conductive heat loss and immediate frost bite (cold burns).
  • Educate employees on how to seek assistance when needed, react to early warning signs, and seek emergency help if needed.
*Signs that a worker may be experiencing cold stress:
  • Decreased alertness;
  • Restlessness, lack of concentration;
  • Impaired performance of complex mental tasks;
  • Impaired ability to perform manual tasks;
  • Numbness, muscle weakness, stiffened joints.
BWC consultants can conduct site visits to help employers create prevention plans related to extreme temperatures. An employer in Ohio current on their workers' compensation insurance may enlist the services of a BWC safety consultant for no additional charge. Reach a consultant by calling 1-866-569-7805.

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