Cold Stress


Weather can often be unpredictable and extreme. Freezing temperatures can create serious health problems, collectively called cold stress.

Cold Stress Factors                               

  • Freezing or near-freezing weather
  • Strong winds
  • Being wet
  • Working for long periods in extreme cold
  • Working in poorly-insulated or poorly-heated areas
  • Being unaccustomed to freezing weather

Preventive Measures

  • Monitor yourself and your coworkers for signs of cold stress.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, such as waterproofed and insulated boots, hats, and multiple layers of loose clothing. Particularly protect all extremities.
  • Always carry cold weather gear, such as extra socks, gloves, hats, jackets, blankets, water, food, and a thermos of hot liquid.
  • Carry a change of clothes and use them if clothes get wet.
  • Limit the amount of time spent in cold, wet environments. Move into warm, dry locations during breaks.
  • Do not touch cold metal surfaces with bare skin.      

Cold Stress Conditions


  • Description: A medical emergency in which the body cannot warm itself


  • Causes: Lengthy exposure to freezing weather
  • Symptoms: Shivering at the onset or not later, fatigue, confusion, disorientation, blue skin, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing, or loss of consciousness
  • First aid: Remove wet clothes, keep the victim warm and dry with blankets, and give the victim warm drinks (if conscious). Monitor consciousness, and get medical help.


  • Description: Damage to body tissue, mostly in the extremities
  • Causes: Lengthy exposure to freezing weather
  • Symptoms: Skin that is aching, tingling, stinging, bluish, pale, or waxy
  • First aid: Immerse the skin in warm but not hot water or, if that is not possible, warm very gently with body heat, without rubbing or pressure. Get medical help.

Trench foot:

  • Description: Dying skin because the body has cut off circulation to the feet
  • Causes: Lengthy exposure of feet to wet conditions (with temperatures up to 60°F)
  • Symptoms: Leg cramps or redness, numbness, swelling, bruising, blisters, ulcers, or gangrene on feet
  • First aid: Dry feet and do not walk on them. Seek medical help.


  • Description: Damage to capillary beds in the skin
  • Causes: Repeated, prolonged exposure to temperatures between freezing and 60°F
  • Symptoms: Redness, inflammation, itching, blistering, ulceration

First aid: Slowly warm the skin, do not scratch, use an anti-itch cream, and cover blisters and ulcers.


all content from Succeed Management.

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