It’s one thing to be sitting by the fire sipping hot cocoa and watching fat snowflakes drift by the window. It’s quite another to be working outside when the mercury has plummeted and there’s little in the way of warmth or shelter.
Jack Frost is doing a lot more than nipping at workers’ noses. People who work in cold environments aren’t just uncomfortable—they can experience major health problems. Some of the more serious threats are:
Both the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration offer some good advice for employers looking to help protect their workers from the dangers of the cold, including the following:
Not only does OSHA want employees to stay safe and warm when working in cold temperatures, the agency requires it. Although there’s no specific standard covering winter weather dangers, employees are protected by the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to provide them with a workplace free from recognized hazards.
OSHA’s penalties for violating the General Duty Clause can be stiffer than gloveless hands in February, ranging as high as $7,000 for serious violations and up to $70,000 for willful or repeated violations. Violations are considered to be serious if they correspond to conditions or practices where there’s a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result unless the employer is, with the exercise of reasonable diligence, unaware of the presence of the violation.
And put on a sweater. You look a little chilled.
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