Cold Stress

When Working in the Cold, Be Prepared and Be Aware

Workers in cold environments may be at risk of cold stress.  Exposure to cold can be an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.  Whenever outdoor temperatures drop significantly below normal and wind speed increases, heat more rapidly leaves the body.  Serious health problems can occur when the body is unable to stay warm enough.  People who are exposed to low temperatures are at risk for injuries ranging from frostbite to serious loss of body heat, which could result in brain damage or death.

When you must work in the cold, always be prepared and be aware.

Be Prepared

Be prepared by wearing warm clothing, even if the cold temperatures are not extreme.  Workers who must be in the cold should wear warm clothing that is right for the weather.  Choose fabrics such as cotton or wool that insulate but also allow sweat to evaporate.  Wear several layers of loose clothing.  Layering provides better insulation and preserves an air space between the body and the outer layer of clothing helping retain body heat.  Wear gloves to protect the hands, and a hat and/or hood to protect the head.  Extremities lose heat very quickly and are difficult to warm

In wet conditions, wear waterproof shoes that have good traction.  Always have extra clothing available if there’s a chance your clothing could get wet.  Make sure that your cold weather gear does not restrict your movement or block your eyesight.

Be prepared to limit your time outside.  Take breaks in warm locations, such as inside a vehicle or other sheltered or heated area.  Workers may also need to limit their time outside on extremely cold days, so cold jobs should be scheduled for the warmest part of the day and relief workers may need to be assigned for long jobs.  When you take a break, be sure to replace lost fluids and calories by drinking warm, sweet, caffeine-free drinks or soup.

Never work alone, especially in cold-stress prone environments.  Use the buddy system.  Look out for one another and be alert for the symptoms of cold stress.

If you become fatigued during physical activity, your body loses its ability to properly retain heat. This causes rapid cooling that can quickly lead to cold stress.  

Frostbite can occur without accompanying hypothermia.  Frostbite occurs when the fluids around the body’s tissues freeze. The most vulnerable parts of the body are the nose, cheeks, ears, fingers and toes.  Symptoms of frostbite include coldness and tingling in the affected part, followed by numbness; changes in skin color to white or grayish-yellow; initial pain that subsides as the condition worsens; and possibly blisters.  Frostbite can cause irreversible tissue damage requiring immediate medical attention.

Be Aware

Be aware that cold temperatures can lead to illness and injury.  Workers should monitor their physical condition and that of coworkers, and immediately report signs and symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries to their supervisors or medical staff.

Hypothermia

One of the biggest dangers from working in the cold can be the hardest to recognize.  Hypothermia happens when your body temperature drops because body heat is being lost faster than it can be produced.  The first symptoms of hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering and the sensation of cold.  The heart rate slows and may become irregular, and the pulse weakens.  Mild hypothermia can make you feel confused, and you may not realize anything is wrong until it is too late.  Cool skin, slow, irregular breathing and exhaustion occur as the body temperature drops even lower.  This is a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention.  Being too cold can also cloud your judgment and cause you to make mistakes while you work, and mistakes can sometimes be deadly. 

Frostbite

Many parts of the body are prone to frostbite, including your fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Frostbite happens when a part of the body freezes, damaging the tissue.  With severe damage, the body part may need to be removed to prevent even worse health problems.  Warning signs of frostbite include numbness or tingling, stinging, or pain on or near the affected body part. Avoid frostbite by being aware of the weather and wearing protective clothing such as warm gloves, insulated shoes, and warm hats.

Other Cold Weather Injuries

You can get trench foot when your feet are wet and cold for too long. Moisture causes your feet to lose heat, and this can slow the blood flow and damage tissue.  Trench foot can happen when it is as warm as 60° F.

Sometimes cold weather can damage your skin and cause chilblains.  This problem can cause broken skin, swelling, blisters, redness, and itching.

For more information about hypothermia and other cold weather injuries, see the NIOSH Fast Facts card, Protecting Yourself from Cold Stress.

Be Ready for the Cold

If you have to work in the cold, always wear clothing that is appropriate for the weather.  Remember prolonged exposures to cold temperatures could cause you to make poor decisions or react more slowly than normal.  Tell your supervisor if you are not dressed warmly enough.  Pay attention to warning signs and symptoms of hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-related illnesses and injuries.


Power Strip and Extension Cord Safety

A recently published National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report shows that in the period from 2010–2014, fires involving extension cords accounted for 57% of the fires involving cords or plugs, as well as disproportionate shares of civilian deaths (70%) and injuries (69%). Extension cords were involved in an estimated average of 1,750 non-confined home fires in that period. These fires resulted in annual averages of 80 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $79 million in direct property damage.

The purpose of this policy is to describe the permissible use of power strips and extension cords within Purchase College buildings. It applies to use of these devices on campus and is useful information for home as well.

Fused Power Strips
Fused power strips provide power to electronic equipment that is in proximity. An inline circuit breaker will interrupt the electric current in case of an overload or a short circuit. They are also known as relocatable power taps or multiple outlet strips.
Extension Cords
Extension cords are intended to provide temporary electric power from a wall mounted receptacle to the plug of an electrically-powered device. They are not meant to be a replacement for fixed wiring. While it may seem convenient to use extension cords, their use indicates that additional hard wiring may be needed. Extension cords are only for temporary use of non-fixed equipment. For example, lighting and tools used in maintenance work.
General Requirements for Power Strips and Approved Extension Cord Use

Always inspect the power cord prior to use. Do not use any device that is damaged.

  • Do not modify cords or use them incorrectly.
  • Never remove the power cord’s grounding pin in order to fit it into a two-prong outlet.
  • Never use a “cheater” or adapter to plug a grounding-type plug (three prongs) to a non-grounding receptacle(two slots).
  • Never use outlet expanders, splitters or cubes.
  • Always ensure the total powered load does not exceed the rating of the power strip.
  • Power strips must have an inline fuse.
    • Note: A surge protector device does not meet the requirements of an inline fuse.
  • Never use equipment rated for indoor use, outdoors.
  • Never plug multiple power strips together. They must be plugged directly into wall outlets.
  • Do not run electrical cords under rugs or furniture.
  • Flexible cords and cables must not create trip hazards.
  • Stop using electrical devices that feel hot to the touch, unless so designed (hair dryer, iron, etc.).
  • Throw away equipment that has damaged cords.
  • Pull the plug, not the cord, when disconnecting an electrical device from the outlet. Pulling the cord can damage the cord and plug. In addition, the plug may strike you in the eyes or face causing an injury.
  • When approved for temporary use, extension cords:
    • Must be grounded and be equipped with over-current protection.
    • Must not pass through holes in walls, ceilings, floors, or through doorways, windows or similar openings.
    • Must not be attached to building surfaces, concealed behind walls, above ceilings or under floors or floor coverings.
    • Must bear approval from Underwriters Laboratory (UL) per NYS Fire Code, 605.4.1.

Do not take shortcuts or chances with electrical safety, and never rely on unsafe practices such as unauthorized “repairs” of electrical cords. Protect yourself and others from electrical fires and electrical shock by looking after all electrical equipment, including power strips. It is worth it.


Mold Facts

Increasing public awareness regarding the health effects of mold has led to increased concern. Molds are part of the natural environment, and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. They can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and a food source is present. Mold is not usually a problem, unless it begins growing indoors. All of us are exposed to a variety of fungal spores daily in the air we breathe.

When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth may occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.

In many cases, occupant actions in response to changing weather conditions such as variations between hot and cold can provide ideal conditions for mold to grow. For example, opening windows when it is hot and not closing them when it is raining or very damp outside, will increase interior moisture.

Identifying moisture problems as soon as they become apparent and responding immediately is the best approach to prevent widespread contamination of an area. The importance of alerting the facilities management team to a problem anytime a leak or water damage is discovered cannot be overstressed. This will allow the team to respond, correct the moisture problem and begin cleaning the area. The response will begin with a thorough visual inspection. This is the most important initial step in identifying a possible mold problem and in determining remediation strategies to be followed.

Once a condition is reported, occupants must not to engage in cleaning up mold as mold and mold spores may be dispersed throughout the air where they can be inhaled by building occupants.

Sampling

In almost all cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Visible mold is the best indication that a moisture problem exists.

Sampling can be considered as part of an evaluation in specific instances. The decision to conduct sampling will be made by the Environmental Health & Safety Department. In the event sampling is indicated, the strategy shall focus on collecting samples in the area of concern, in an area in the same building where there is no concern, and outside that building.

The evaluation of air-sampling results is based on the comparison of the types (similar mix expected) and levels (lower indoors expected) of fungi detected indoors versus that detected outdoors. Differences between indoor and outdoor results suggest but do not confirm that mold growth is present indoors.

Sampling should be conducted only after developing a sampling strategy that includes a provable theory regarding suspected mold sources. Inadequate sample plans may generate misleading, confusing and useless results at an unnecessary, high cost.

It is important to remember that the results of sampling may have limited use or application.  Due to each person’s response to mold exposure being unique, Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) exposure limits for mold or mold spores currently do not exist.

Sampling for mold must only be conducted by professionals holding proper certifications, who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, who use established sampling methods and can provide assistance in the interpretation and application of results.

Keep in mind that air sampling for mold, when properly conducted, provides a snapshot in time and only applies to the moment when the sampling occurred. Conditions can and do change.

Mold Prevention Tips
  • Fix leaky plumbing and leaks in the building envelope as soon as possible.
  • Encourage occupants to watch for condensation and wet spots and report the condition ASAP.
  • Prevent moisture due to condensation by increasing surface temperature or reducing the moisture level in air (humidity).  To increase surface temperature, insulate or increase air circulation. To reduce the moisture level in air, repair leaks, increase ventilation (if outside air is cold and dry), or dehumidify (if outdoor air is warm and humid).
  • Ensure moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, are vented to the outside and the vents are not obstructed.
  • Maintain low indoor humidity, below 60% relative humidity (RH), ideally 30-50%, if possible.
Remediation Basics
Non-porous materials (e.g. metals, glass, and hard plastics) can almost always be cleaned. Semi porous and porous structural materials, such as wood and concrete can be cleaned if they are structurally sound. Porous materials, such as fabric, ceiling tiles and insulation, and wallboards (with more than a small area of mold growth) should be removed and discarded. Wallboard should be cleaned or removed at least six inches beyond visually assessed mold growth (including hidden areas, see Visual Inspection) or wet or water-damaged areas.
Post Remediation
  • Ensure the water or moisture problem has been completely fixed.
  • Complete the mold removal. Use professional judgment to determine if the cleanup is sufficient. Visible mold, mold-damaged materials and moldy odors should not be present.
  • If samples were collected, the kinds and concentrations of mold spores in the building should be similar to those found outside, once cleanup activities have been completed.
  • Return to the affected area(s) shortly after remediation. There should be no signs of water damage or mold growth.