Work in a cold store environment

People working in cold store environments face health hazards related to low temperatures. These hazards­­ according to their symptoms are categorized in:

  1. Freezing injuries such as frostbite or skin damage when there is extensive contact with metal or plastic surfaces with bare skin
  2. Non-freezing injuries such as numbness, sensitivity to the cold, swelling or pain when there is prolonged exposure of tissues in cold
  3. Hypothermia, drop of body temperature expressed with shivering, blue tone skin, cold hands and feet
  4. Pre-existing medical conditions that can be triggered by exposure to cold e.g. asthma or other respiratory conditions, circulatory conditions, arthritis, musculoskeletal diseases, metabolic disorders such as thyroid or diabetes. If any of these conditions occur, employers should be informed beforehand in order to proceed to further assessment.

For work in cold store environments it is essential that the following are provided to the working personnel:

  • Training on cold hazards and identification of cold stress symptoms
  • Easy accessible warming rest areas for sufficient breaks
  • Workers’ rotation
  • First Aid facilities
  • Suitable personal protective equipment:

– for chill environment down to -5°C, including thermal undergarments, quilted coverall or suit, gloves, safety boots or shoes, head protection

– for frozen environment -5°C and below, including thermal undergarments, quilted coverall or suit with knee protection, cold store gloves, insulated safety boots and thermal socks, thermal lined helmet or balaclava

Safety tips:         

  1. It is essential to wear the right clothing than too many layers of clothing. Thermal underwear allow the body to breath and avoid sweating
  2. Choose the right size of clothing, not too small nor too tight, to allow blood flow
  3. Adjust cuffs or closures to allow moisture to get out
  4. Do not leave bare skin exposed to cold temperature or wind and avoid touching metal or plastic surfaces with bare skin
  5. Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking because they affect the body’s ability to retain heat
  6. Avoid drinking tea or coffee as caffeine acts as a diuretic and can lead to dehydration
  7. Drink enough water, hot soup or hot chocolate
  8. Prescribed or non-prescribed drugs can affect body temperature regulation
  9. Stay alert for early signs of hypothermia. Cold hands and feet, extreme shivering or drowsiness call for immediate transfer to a warm rest area
  10. Keep an eye on your colleagues for freezing symptoms and request immediate medical assistance

Source: BFFF guidelines