OSHA Weather Regulations: Extreme Temperatures

  • Sep 22, 2017

OSHA Weather Regulations

The Occupational Health & Safety Act of 1970 requires employers to provide employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”

While there are no specific OSHA weather regulations for cold or warm weather, extreme temperatures can and do cause death or serious harm to employees. Severe weather tracking software helps employers keep their workers safe during both the summer and winter.

OSHA Warm Weather Safety

Warm weather can be a huge threat to both outdoor and indoor employees. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness.

When workers are exposed to high temperatures, their bodies must work harder to rid excess heat and maintain a stable internal temperature. Our bodies do this by circulating blood to the skin and through sweating. When air temperatures are close or warmer than normal body temperature, our bodies have to work even harder to cool down. If our bodies cant;’ get rid of excess heat, they will store it, which results in heat-stress related illnesses.

Workplaces that commonly run into heat stress illness risks are iron and steel foundries, brick-firing, glass products facilities, construction, smelters, chemical plants, farms, and mining sites.

Heat Stress Prevention

Heat-stress related illnesses range from dehydration to death. While there are no OSHA weather regulations about heat, their website is full of helpful preventative information.

To keep workers safe in the heat, employers should use air conditioning when possible, increase general ventilation, use cooling fans, use reflective shields to redirect radiant heat, and eliminate steam leaks. Outdoor workers should be given adequate breaks and provided with plenty of water and shade.

While heat index is an alright way of monitoring the way temperatures are affecting the body, the best way to avoid heat stress and heat-related illnesses is to monitor Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) where employees work. WBGT takes more conditions into account than the Heat Index does. WBGT measured temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle, solar radiation, and cloud cover to understand how much the weather is having an effect on workers.

OSHA Cold Weather Safety

While you’ve probably heard of heat stress, you’ve probably never heard of cold stress. However, cold stress is a risk facing all employees that work in a cold environment. Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature. This can lead to serious health problems like tissue damage and even death.

Risk factors that contribute to cold stress are:

  • Wetness/dampness
  • Dressing improperly
  • Exhaustion
  • Predisposing health conditions like hypertension, hypothyroidism, and diabetes
  • Poor physical conditioning

 

While cold stress shows itself in a few different ways, the most common cold-induced injuries and illnesses are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench Foot.

Some workers that may be required to work outdoors in cold environments for extended periods of time include:

  • Snow cleanup crews
  • Sanitation workers
  • Police officers
  • Emergency response and recovery personnel

So how cold is too cold for these hardworking individuals? This varies across different areas of the country. In regions that are not used to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered “extreme cold.” Just like extreme heat forces the body to work harder to maintain a safe temperature, extreme cold does the same. When temperatures drop below normal and wind speed increases, heat can leave workers bodies more rapidly.

Preventing Cold Stress

While there are no OSHA weather regulations about cold stress, there is plenty of preventative informatino on their website.To prevent cold stress in your employees, you should do a few different things. The first action employers should take is to train workers on how to prevent and recognize cold stress illnesses and injuries. Employees should also know how to apply first aid treatment. The second step employers can take is to provide engineering controls, like radiant heaters. Another thing employers can do is use work safe work practices. For example, it is easy to become dehydrated in cold weather. Employers can provide plenty of warm sweetened liquids to workers. The last thing employers can do is to teach employees how to dress properly.

To prevent cold stress in your employees, you should do a few different things. The first action employers should take is to train workers on how to prevent and recognize cold stress illnesses and injuries. Employees should also know how to apply first aid treatment. The second step employers can take is to provide engineering controls, like radiant heaters. Another thing employers can do is use work safe work practices. For example, it is easy to become dehydrated in cold weather. Employers can provide plenty of warm sweetened liquids to workers. The last thing employers can do is to teach employees how to dress properly.