NEWSWATCH
THERMAL STRESSORS
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JOEH Publishes Case Study on Working in Cold Environments
A NIOSH case study published in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) provides recommendations for improving the health and safety of employees who work in moderately cold environments such as in the food preparation and processing or cold storage industries. The new report is based on a health hazard evaluation that NIOSH researchers conducted at an airline catering facility last year where they evaluated concerns about thermal exposures, musculoskeletal disorders, and job stress. During NIOSH’s site visit, researchers identified several sources of worker discomfort, including air drafts, insufficient use of gloves, and lack of knowledge about working safely in a cold room. NIOSH recommended that the employer install equipment to reduce drafts and condensation; encourage employees to change out of wet clothes; and educate workers on the symptoms of cold stress. The agency report also recommends rotating employees who perform work requiring fine manual dexterity between warmer and colder areas throughout the workday, and providing more options on personal protective equipment. Some of the recommendations outlined in the report may be applicable to other facilities where workers spend much of their work shift inside cold rooms. However, the researchers note that “there is a need for guidelines and educational materials tailored to employees in moderately cold environments to improve thermal comfort and minimize health and safety problems.” For more information, see NIOSH’s press release. To access the full text of the JOEH article online, AIHA members must first log in to the Member Center on AIHA.org and click on the link to the Journal. Entering the article title, “Recommendations to Improve Employee Thermal Comfort When Working in 40°F Refrigerated Cold Rooms,” in the search field will bring up the report.
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