Learn Strategies for Managing Cold Stress on Jobsites

Contact: Brad Mannion
Director, Labor, Health & Safety
(202) 266-8265

Each time winter weather rolls around, a new threat to residential construction workers emerges: cold stress. It is important for jobsite managers to know how to protect workers in low temperatures, recognize the signs of injuries and plan for common hazards, including icy roads and walkways.

As a part of its ongoing initiative on member jobsite safety, NAHB recently created a new video toolbox talk on cold stress safety.

When working in cold temperatures, there are several risk factors, including wetness/dampness, wind, dehydration, improper clothing and predisposed health conditions. These can all lead to cold stress injuries and illnesses like:

  • Hypothermia
  • Frostbite
  • Dehydration

But how do you know if it’s too cold outside? Sudden drops in temperature, increases in wind-chill, limited sunshine and lack of protective clothing are all factors that increase the risk of cold stress among construction staff.

It is important to keep in mind that other weather conditions such as snow, rain and sleet bring their own set of jobsite hazards, including slips and falls that can result in bruises, lacerations and other injuries.

There are ways for managers to minimize risk and protect their crewmembers from these cold stress injuries. For example, removing snow and ice from the site and salting walkways/roadways is a great way to prevent slips and falls. The use of space heaters is another simple but effective practice. Lastly it is very important to educate workers on how to protect themselves from the wintry elements and how to detect if they are feeling or exhibiting symptoms of any injury or illness listed above.

If someone is exhibiting symptoms, they should be moved to a warm room or vehicle, and warm bottles or hot packs should be placed under their armpits, the sides of their chest and under the groin with blankets that don’t cover their face. And of course, in any medical emergency, always dial 911.

Watch the toolbox talk below to learn more about cold stress safety. English and Spanish versions of the video, along with a helpful handout, are available on the Cold Stress Safety webpage.

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