Workers from many industries have a greater potential of being placed in extreme weather environments throughout the seasons, be it extreme heat or cold.  As we enter the winter season, CTEH wanted to remind you of the potential of cold stress in workers that routinely have to work outside.

What is cold stress? Can its effects vary? Cold stress does effect people differently throughout the United States. Areas that are more sensitive to cold stress include regions not as accustomed to winter weather or near freezing temperatures, however we encourage you to always be cognizant of cold stress risk factors even if you live in the northern most areas of the Country. NIOSH explains “whenever temperatures drop decidedly below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can more rapidly leave your body” greatly increasing your risk.

Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature and eventually the body’s core (internal) temperature. But what are some risk factors that can lead to cold stress?

•Working in cold conditions:

•Outdoor agriculture;


•Exploration and Production;

•Rail yards;

•Marine Vessels;


•Freezers, to name a few.


•Improper PPE


•Predisposed health conditions (hypertension, diabetes, etc.)

Weather-related conditions may lead to serious health problems or illnesses. What are the effects that exposures to cold temperature can have on workers?

•Decreased manual dexterity

•Fine motor skill loss



•Trench Foot

•Raynaud’s Phenomenon

•Reduced visual acuity

•Changes in perception, mood, personality and apathy

•Performance loss

For information on how cold is too cold? Visit OSHA Cold Stress Guide Here.

In our next post on working in extremely cold weather, we will share CDC’s recommendations on how cold stress can be prevented.