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What is cold stress and how can employers prevent it?

Cold stress relates to the health detrimental impact that cold working environments can have on workers. However, determining whether cold stress may be an issue for a particular workforce will depend on different factors.

In warmer climates, where employees are not accustomed to harsh winters, near freezing temperatures can induce cold stress. Other factors that can contribute to cold stress aside from temperature are increased wind speeds that create the wind chill effect. Dampness, humidity and wetness can also contribute to cold stress.

Job-related cold stress happens when a worker's skin temperature is lowered until his or her internal body temperature falls to dangerous levels affecting the body's ability to keep itself warm. This can result in a lot of different low temperature-related injuries and illnesses, like hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot just to name a few.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers must do everything they can to prevent cold stress from happening. This includes educational programs to teach employees about cold stress, how to avoid it and how to prevent it. Employers must also provide adequate breaks, hot beverages, heaters, warm weather gear, warm weather clothing and initiating buddy systems in order to keep workers safe.

As we enter the winter months in New Jersey, it's time for workers and their employers to start thinking about how to avoid injuries related to cold stress. However, if a cold-related injury does occur, injured workers should know that they will have the right to file a workers' compensation claim to pay for the costs associated with their medical care.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Cold Stress," accessed Nov. 24, 2016

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