December 20, 2018 - Heather Jackson

Cold Stress Injury – Are My Employees At Risk?


Did you know… that if your employees suffer from cold related illness, it can cause permanent tissue damage, and even death?

With moderation, working in cold conditions doesn’t present any danger.

Working in excess, it can cause serious injury.

In this post, we’ll go over the major risks when exposed to extreme temperatures and provide some simple preventative tips you can enforce to keep them safe, healthy and happy on the job!

Cold Related Illness or Injury? Watch Out For the ‘Big 3’

What is cold related illness?

Cold related illness or injury refers to workers who are exposed to low temperatures, wetness and high wind speed. Without taking the right precautions (frequent breaks from the cold, appropriate protective gear, and recognizing signs of moderate to severe symptoms), a serious illness or workplace injury can develop.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 20,000 U. S. based workplace injuries due to cold weather accidents – most commonly including slip and falls due to ice, snow and sleet.

Here, we’ve laid out the top three cold related illnesses that can cause injury on the job.

If your employees experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek out medical intervention right away so the symptoms don’t become worse:

1. Hypothermia. When the body is exposed to extreme cold and it loses heat faster than the body can produce it, hypothermia develops. Signs of developing hypothermia include: slurred speech, clumsy movements, cool, blueish cheeks; drowsiness, uncontrollable shivering and confused behavior.

If an employee shows symptoms of hypothermia, seek medical attention immediately.

Move them to a warm and dry spot.

Remove their wet clothing and replace it with warm clothing. If they are alert, give them a sugary drink to sip on (no alcohol or caffeine).

Instruct them to move their arms and legs to generate heat. If they aren’t able to do this, place hot packs in their armpits, groin, neck and head until help arrives.

2. Frostbite. Frostbite is a common cold weather illness. Workers in the construction field are particularly at risk, as well as other industry professionals who spend the majority of their shift outdoors. Symptoms include: fingers, hands, toes, feet, nose and ears that are pale in color, and numb.

Seek medical help immediately.

Don’t leave the employee alone; instead, move them to a warm spot nearby, and remove wet/cold clothing until help has arrived.

3. Trench Foot. Trench foot is caused by the feet being immersed in cold water for long periods of time.

During the winter months, be particularly mindful for dropping temperatures in water – it can sneak up on you and cause symptoms similar to frostbite – although not quite as severe. If you experience: tingling or burning feet, and/or blisters, wrap feet in dry cloth bandages and drink a warm, sugary drink.

According to the Safety and Health Guide on Cold Stress, OSHA points out the following risk factors that can contribute to cold stress:

  • Wetness/dampness;
  • Dressing improperly;
  • Predisposing health conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism and diabetes;
  • Poor physical conditioning;
  • Exhaustion.

How Can I Get Started With Cold Illness/Injury Protection?

Planning for cold related illness and injury is your greatest defense. Axiom Medical understands the importance of ensuring the right treatment at the right time with the right outcome!

With over 65 % of cases managed in-house with first aid measures, our incident case management will significantly impact your OSHA recordable outcomes. From pre-hire to post-separation, Axiom provides 24/7 telephonic nurse triage to keep the injury appropriately treated in a timely manner!

Give us a call at +1 (877) 502-9466 or fill out our contact form to find out just how easy an effective occupational health program can be!

Heather lives and writes by the motto, “No coffee, no workee,” and is passionate about helping others live a happier and healthier life. When she’s not writing away, you can find her playing basketball with her two sons, planning her next getaway “somewhere tropical” or trying out a new recipe with chocolate as the main ingredient.

Find out more about our Injury Case Management services or our Occupational Health Programs.


Posted in Health Guidelines, Injury Case Management, Workplace Safety