Cold stress

Who is Affected?

A large number of Australian workers are employed in work where they can be exposed to extreme cold conditions.

These include rescue workers e.g. fire fighters, police and ambulance officers who often have to work outside and on occasions are exposed to extremities in weather conditions. Other workers who work outdoors such as electrical, Council, construction, community health, maintenance workers, greenkeepers, fisherman and farmhands etc. can be exposed to cold when they work outdoors.

People who work indoors can also be exposed to cold such as freezer or cool room workers, meatworkers, mortuary workers, and florists.

IT’S THE LAW!

Under Clause 48 of the OHS Regulation “working in cold environments” employers must ensure that employees exposed to cold have:

  • Adequate access to heated or sheltered work areas
  • Warm clothing
  • Personal protective clothing
  • Appropriate work and rest regimes

Facts Relating to People Working in Cold Environments

The following provides basic information for employees who may be exposed to cold.

Please note that the information is not a substitute for medical advice. It provides an outline of common signs and symptoms that people exposed to cold may experience.

“Hypothermia” is a where the core body temperature decreases to a level at which normal body functions become impaired. These include muscular and cerebral (brain) functions. Symptoms include confusion, drowsiness, pale and cold skin, slurred speech, slowing of breathing, uncontrollable shivering, weakness, loss of coordination, apathy or lethargy. Severe hypothermia is immediately life threatening.

Work involving cold can lead to physical discomfort without meaning you are at risk of any more serious condition developing. However, you must be aware of the early warning signs of hypothermia, and take appropriate action if you experience them – or if you observe another person who appears to be in difficulty.

Risk Assessment

Employers are required to carry out a risk assessment and make sure that they have proper procedures in place to control the exposure of their employees to the effects of cold. This includes the provision of personal protective equipment.

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