What is Cold Stress & How Does It Affect The Worker?

Exposure to cold weather can affect workers in various ways. It can cause loss of manual dexterity, increase accidents on the job, and decrease worker performance. Continuous cold weather exposure without proper clothing can lead to hypothermia, dehydration, numbness, shivering, and even frostbite.

The first signs of cold stress include loss of performance capacity leading to mistakes and possible injuries on the job. Shivering is one of the earliest signs of impending hypothermia and is often ignored. When the body temperature drops below 98.6°F, blood begins to flow away from extremities and towards the core, further impeding manual dexterity and increasing the risk of hypothermia and frostbite of exposed skin. If body temperature continues to fall, dexterity and mental performance are further decreased and speech may become slurred. The worker may appear apathetic to the environment and to work. At 85°F, severe hypothermia sets in, possibly resulting in unconsciousness. And at 78°F or below death is likely.