MSHA Issues Cold Weather Health & Safety Alerts

MSHA is advising that cold weather can cause cold stress, which can lead to hypothermia, frostbite and other severe injuries, and illnesses.
The agency recommends the following best practices:

  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers.
  • Wear appropriate clothing.
  • Wear clothing that allows a full range of motion necessary for the tasks of the work.
  • Move into warm locations during breaks.
  • Include chemical hot packs in your first aid kit.
  • Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin.

In addition, some portable heaters can emit deadly carbon monoxide (CO).  CO is odorless and colorless and can accumulate in confined spaces and enclosed areas such as the cabs of vehicles, work trailers and unventilated areas.  Exposure to 200 parts per million of CO for 15 minutes can cause disorientation, unconsciousness and eventual death.

MSHA recommends the following best practices to avoid this type of accident:

  • Maintenance of fuel-burning equipment and vehicles is crucial. Vehicle exhaust systems need to be regularly inspected for leaks or other damage.
  • Monitors and audible alarm systems should be in place wherever CO is a potential hazard. Use portable CO detectors as necessary.
  • Properly ventilate work areas. The ventilation system should be designed and maintained to remove contaminants from the mine atmosphere.
  • Maintain travelways and keep them free of ice and debris.

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