Old News Archive

Maine Department of Labor Cautions: Protect Cold-Weather Workers

January 26, 2007 - TRC

Augusta - With today’s extreme cold temperatures and wind chill, the Maine Department of Labor reminds workers and employers to take precautions to prevent cold-related health problems.

Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said, "Maine has many occupations that involve working in very cold conditions. Men and women who work in construction, fishing, farming, and road clearing, as well as people who work in the woods, should take precautions to protect themselves from the elements.”

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures may cause serious health problems such as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. In extreme cases, exposure can lead to death. Workers face increased risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical condition, or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
To protect yourself from cold-related problems:

* Recognize conditions that can lead to prolonged exposure to cold.

* Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do if they occur.

* Danger signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue and confused behavior. If these signs are observed, call for emergency help

* Wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions.

* Take frequent short breaks in warm, dry shelters to allow your body to warm up.

* Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day.

* Avoid exhaustion or fatigue, because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.

* Use the buddy system - work in pairs so that one worker can recognize danger signs.

* Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) and avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas or hot chocolate) or alcohol.

* Eat warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes.

OSHA has a Cold Stress Card in English and in Spanish. For free copies go to OSHA's website www.osha.gov.

The SafetyWorks! program of the Maine Department of Labor helps workers and employers stay safe and healthy on the job. For more information about free materials and services, call toll-free 1-877-SAFE-345 (TTY: 1-800-794-1110) or go to www.safetyworksmaine.com.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.