- Core temperature
- Wind chill
- Risk factors
- Exposure limits
Cold stress or hypothermia can affect workers who are not protected against cold. The cold may result naturally from weather conditions or be created artificially, as in refrigerated environments.
Cold is a physical hazard in many workplaces. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur, leading to permanent tissue damage and even death.
Workplaces exposed to cold, wet, and/or windy conditions include
- open or unheated cabs
- bridges or other projects near large bodies of water
- large steel structures that retain cold or are exposed to cold
- high buildings open to the wind
- refrigerated rooms, vessels, and containers.
This section provides information on
- effects of overexposure to cold
- factors that can worsen these effects
- control measures.
Knowing this information can help construction workers avoid hypothermia and frostbite.
The body tries to maintain an internal (core) temperature of approximately 37°C (98.6°F). This is done by reducing heat loss and increasing heat production.
Under cold conditions, blood vessels in skin, arms, and legs constrict, decreasing blood flow to extremities. This minimizes cooling of the blood and keeps critical internal organs warm. At very low temperatures, however, reducing blood flow to the extremities can result in lower skin temperature and higher risk of frostbite.