it NEVER gets COLD in the desert!!"
Winter in the desert
southwest is usually seen as warm and pleasant, a place where retirees
from the northern climes come to bask in the sun. But what about those
of us who live here through the summer heat and are acclimated differently?
Even though the Phoenix
metro area is getting warmer, during the months of December, January,
and February many of the fringe areas experience subfreezing temperatures,
especially in the mornings. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can
cause health problems as the body tries to stay warm. Trench foot, frostbite,
hypothermia, and even death can result from cold exposure. Symptoms include
slurred speech, uncontrolled shivering, clumsiness, and confusion. Employers
and workers in the agricultural and construction industries, as well as
citizens enjoying the Arizona outdoors, should take precautions and learn
to prevent and treat cold disorders.
OSHA has published
a Cold Stress Card, available for free in
Spanish and English
versions, that includes ideas for protection and references for warning
signs and prevention. Some tips include:
- Recognize the environmental
and workplace conditions that may be dangerous.
- Learn the signs
and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to
- Train workers about
cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
- Encourage workers
to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including
layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions.
- Be sure workers
in extreme conditions take a frequent short break in warm dry shelters
to allow their bodies to warm up.
- Try to schedule
work for the warmest part of the day.
- Avoid exhaustion
or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
- Use the buddy system
- work in pairs so that one worker can recognize danger signs.
- Drink warm, sweet
beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) and avoid drinks with caffeine
(coffee, tea, sodas or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
- Eat warm, high-calorie
foods such as hot pasta dishes.
face increased risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical
condition or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular
disease. Knowing the facts on cold exposure and following a few simple
guidelines can ensure that the cold season is a safe and healthy one.
Additional information can
be found at the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH), or on one of the following OSHA fact sheets and
Workers in Cold Environments - December 22, 1998
OSHA Offers Tips to Protect Workers in Cold Environments - January 8,
Offers Tips to Protect Workers in Cold Environments - December 9, 2003