Cold Stress

Jan 10, 2023
by Julie East

Cold weather and environments pose many hazards to those who work in these conditions. A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. What is considered “cold” can vary by region and individual. The following are some situations which need to be analyzed and addressed to ensure safety.

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. It causes a loss of feeling and color in the affected areas and most often affects the extremities, e.g., nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can lead to permanent damage or amputation of the affected areas. First aid for frostbite: Get the victim into a warm area immediately. Do not walk on frostbitten toes or feet, because this will cause more damage. Use warm, not hot, water to warm the affected areas.

Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, is an injury of the feet resulting from prolonged exposure to wet and cold winter weather. Trench foot can occur at temperatures as high as 60 degrees if the feet are constantly wet. Wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet. To prevent heat loss, the body constricts blood vessels to shut down circulation in the feet. Skin tissue begins to die because of lack of oxygen and nutrients and due to the buildup of toxic products. First aid for trench foot: Remove any wet socks or boots. Dry feet and do not walk on them, as this can cause more damage if already affected.

Hypothermia. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. A body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. First aid for hypothermia: Alert someone and get medical help immediately. Move the victim into a warm area. Warm the center of their body first-chest, neck, head, and groin area-using an electric blanket, if available; or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets. If the victim is not breathing, begin CPR until the paramedics arrive on the scene.

Safe Work Practices for Cold Environments

  • Eliminate or limit work as much as possible when extremely cold temperatures are present.
  • Allow for acclimatization to cold environments or weather. If the weather is extremely cold for the area or time of year, you will not yet be used to it and are more susceptible to succumbing to a cold-related illness.
  • Layer up on clothing and keep clothes dry. It is important to remove any wet clothing or boots and put on dry items when working in a cold environment.
  • Take breaks in warm areas or vehicles as needed.
  • Drink warm beverages to help warm up your core temperature.
  • Monitor the condition of others around you. If you notice something could be wrong, get them into a warm area and get immediate medical assistance.

How can Lofton Safety help?

Lofton Safety Services can evaluate and design safety programs to help reduce injuries, and implement methods to communicate early injury warning signs to management for review. If you have questions regarding safety issues or training, contact Lofton Safety Services at 337-330-2642 or For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers’ Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit

About Lofton: Founded in 1979, Lofton Services offers clients the best of all worlds. We provide the responsive, personal service and flexibility of a small local firm while having the technology, resources, and infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the biggest players in our industry. Lofton can deliver the right people, with the right skills, right when you need them. Contact us today.