Brrr… Cold Weather Safety

A color image of a cartoon dairy cow wearing ice skates and a scarf

Be Ready for a Safe Winter!

Brrr!! This is Wisconsin Winter Weather Awareness Week, November 9-13, 2015,  as declared by Governor Scott Walker. The annual campaign, sponsored by Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM), Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), and the National Weather Service (NWS), reminds us now is the time to get ready before the snow and cold hit.  While the main focus of Winter Weather Awareness Week is safe winter driving, this is a good time to consider other cold weather safety around the farm.

Cold Weather Safety

A good starting place is OSHA’s Cold Weather Stress Guide.  OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in cold environments, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized hazards, including cold stress hazards, that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm in the workplace.

  • Employers should train workers. Training should include:
    • How to recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that can lead to cold stress.
    • The symptoms of cold stress, how to prevent cold stress, and what to do to help those who are affected.
    • How to select proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions.
  • Employers should:
    • Monitor workers physical condition.
    • Schedule frequent short breaks in warm dry areas, to allow the body to warm up.
    • Schedule work during the warmest part of the day.
    • Use the buddy system (work in pairs).
    • Provide warm, sweet beverages. Avoid drinks with alcohol.
    • Provide engineering controls such as radiant heaters.

To determine items that you should cover in training your workers, think about a day last winter on your farm during a snowstorm or ice event. What tasks on your farm required employees to be working outside or in other cold environments. Feeding calves in hutches, removing plastic from horizontal silos or silage piles, starting tractors or skid steers in cold weather, or unthawing frozen pipes and equipment are a few situations to consider. List the factors for each of task that have safety concerns in  cold temperatures.  Discuss those concerns with your workers as well as how to report any cold weather injuries such as potential frostbite.  Be prepared and plan for severe winter storms that may make it impossible for employees to leave work or get to work. Post reminders about cold weather safety procedures in advance of winter storm events.Share information with them on safe winter driving and having winter weather kits in vehicles.

Discussing cold weather safety and plans for winter storms now, will help prepare everyone for a safe winter ahead. Be ready for winter!


Photo source: Image purchase from for use by the UW Center for Agricultural Safety and Health only.

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