NIOSH to employers: Protect workers in ‘moderately cold’ conditions

November 11, 2015

Chicago – “Moderately cold” work conditions pose health and safety risks for employees, and employers should take steps to improve worker comfort, according to NIOSH.

At the American Public Health Association’s annual conference on Nov. 4, researchers presented a case study examining working conditions of airline food preparation employees, who spend as many as eight hours per day in refrigerated rooms at 40° F – a temperature required by food safety rules. Workers in other industries – including food preparation and processing, cold storage, supermarkets, and transportation – may experience similar conditions. Such cold environments can increase the risk of injury or aggravate an existing injury, NIOSH states.

The agency recommends that employers take steps to improve the thermal comfort of workers in moderately cold rooms, including:

  • Install equipment to reduce drafts and condensation.
  • Encourage workers to change out of wet clothing.
  • Rotate employees between warmer and colder work areas throughout the day.
  • Educating workers on the symptoms of cold stress.

The case study, previously published in the Journal of Environmental Health, stems from a report NIOSH published in 2014 that explored, in part, thermal exposures to airline catering employees.