Thank goodness it’s not as cold in Ohio as it is in PyeongChang. While winter Olympians train in freezing conditions to prep them for cold weather performance, you can prepare by being informed. Knowing common cold stress injuries is key to keeping workers safe.

What conditions are caused by cold stress?

Hypothermia – The worst of the worst; caused by prolonged exposure to cold. It occurs when the body uses up stored energy and can no longer produce heat.

Frostbite – Watch for this on fingers, noses and toes. When extremities are exposed to low temps, skin and other tissue can freeze. It can be accompanied by clumsiness, swelling or blistering.

Trench foot – This is a foot injury resulting from prolonged exposure to wet and cold water. It can happen even on warmer days if feet are constantly wet.

Chillblains – This extremely painful condition produces skin redness, itching and ulcers. It’s caused by repeated exposure to cool (as warm as 60°F), but not freezing temperatures.

Protect Yourself in the Cold

  1. Monitor your own and coworkers’ physical condition.
  2. Wear appropriate clothing for the weather. Layers of loose clothes can provide insulation. Tight clothes may cut off circulation to extremities.
  3. Consider the work environment – some clothes may restrict movement in hazardous situations.
  4. Protect your ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold and/or wet weather. Wear waterproof, insulated boots and a hat.
  5. Move into warmer areas during breaks and limit the total amount of time outside.
  6. Carry a change of clothes (including a jacket, socks, gloves and a hat), blankets and a thermos of hot liquid.
  7. Include chemical hot packs in the first aid kit.
  8. Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin.

While you may not be an Olympian, you can be a safety champion by protecting yourself and educating others about cold weather stress.