Cold-Related Safety Precautions

Cold related illnesses and injury can occur when the air temperatures are above freezing and water temperatures are below 98.6°F (37°C). Cold related illnesses can slowly overcome a person who has been chilled by low temperatures, brisk winds, or wet clothing. The effects on the body are freezing in the deep layers of the skin tissue. The skin can become hard and numb and change color to a pale and waxy-white color. The first areas to be affected are usually the fingers, hands, toes, ears and nose.


Occurs when skin tissue freezes and cell damage results.

Symptoms First Aid Measures
  • Uncomfortable sensation of coldness
  • Tingling & Stinging
  • Aching feeling followed by numbness
  • Uncontrolled shivering
  • Cool bluish skin
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Clumsy movements
  • Confused behavior


  • Move person to warm, dry area
  • Remove wet or tight clothing
  • Gently place affected are in a warm water bath (105°F)
  • Slowly warm affected area


  • Rub affected area(s)
  • Pour warm water directly onto affect area-will warm too fast

Trench Foot:

Trench foot may be caused by long and continuous exposure to a wet and cold environment or immersion in water.

Symptoms First Aid Measures
  • Tingling and/or itching sensation
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Blisters
  • Death of skin tissue
  • Move person to warm area
  • Treat affected part with warm water or warm packs (102°F-110°F)
  • Bed rest in warm environment
  • Obtain medical assistance ASAP


The progressive loss of body head with prolonged exposure to cold. Body heat loss is accelerated more rapidly when a person is wet because of seat or working in a damp environment.

Symptoms First Aid Measures
  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Feeling of Cold
  • Confused
  • Careless
  • Disoriented


  • Move person to warm, dry shelter
  • Remove wet clothing
  • Apply warm blankets for insulation
  • Warm, nonalcoholic, caffeine-free drinks may be offered


  • Place person’s body in warm bath water (May stop the heart)
  • Pour warm water directly onto affect area-will warm too fast

Preventing Cold-Related Disorders:

  • Dress appropriately. Wear layers:
    • An outer layer to break the wind and allow some ventilation (like Gortex or nylon).
    • A middle layer of wool, down, to absorb sweat and retain insulating properties when wet.
    • An inner layer of synthetic weaves to allow ventilation and escape of perspiration. Try to avoid wearing clothing made of cotton as the inner layer.
    • Keep a change of clothes available.
  • Protect your feet, hands, head, and face. Keep the head covered (up to 40 percent of body heat can be lost when the head is exposed).
  • Wear footgear that protects against cold and dampness.
  • Avoid wearing dirty or greasy clothing because such garments have poor insulating properties.
  • Use thermal insulating material on the handles of equipment when temps drop below 30°F.
  • Avoid activities, whenever possible, that lead to heavy perspiration.
  • Minimize activities requiring sitting or standing in a cold environment for long periods of time.
  • Keep energy levels up and prevent dehydration by consuming warm, sweet, caffeine-free, drinks & soup.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of the signs of:
    1. Hypothermia
    2. Frost Bit
  2. What are some steps you can take to stay warm and safe when working in cold temperatures?
  3. What should you do if you have any symptoms of cold related illnesses?
  4. How should you dress in cold temperatures?