Hesperian Health Guides

Dangers from cold

When you are cold, your muscles become tense and less flexible, which makes strain and injury more likely. When your body gets cold, you can also get sick with other illnesses more easily.

Working when you are too cold can also be dangerous because you think and move more slowly. Your hands and feet cannot hold or feel things as well as usual, so you may not notice if you are injured. Using tools that vibrate can make problems from cold even worse.

Warm up the workplace

a worker standing at a table gluing a shoe.
A hat, jacket, and floor mat can help you stay warmer.

The best way to protect workers from getting sick or injured due to cold is to keep the factory at a comfortable temperature.

  • Insulate the roof and walls to keep warm air inside the building and cold air outside.
  • Heat the work area with a hot air system, or with hot water or steam radiators that spread the heat evenly.
  • Insulate the floor – especially floors made of concrete, stone, or metal – with rubber, wood, or carpeting. Anti-fatigue mats can be good insulation from cold floors.
  • Insulate chairs with cushions, cloth, or foam rubber, especially if the chairs are made of metal. Wood, plastic, and fabric chairs are warmer to sit on than metal chairs.
  • Heat vehicles with electric seat warmers or hot air blowing on the feet.
  • Close doors and windows to keep out cold air when the climate is cold. If open windows and doors help ventilate the factory, see Chapter 17: Ventilation for information about other ways to keep chemicals and dust out of the air.
  • Open doors, windows, and window shades to let sunshine and warm air in when the climate is warm.

Stay warm in a cold workplace

  • Wear warm clothing, including socks, closed shoes, and boots with thick soles. Several thin layers are warmer than 1 layer of heavy clothes.
  • Cover your head and ears with a hat or scarf. Just covering your head helps keep your whole body warm.
  • Wear gloves, especially if you touch cold things while working.
  • Avoid getting wet, it makes the body lose heat more quickly. If you do get wet, change into warm, dry clothes.
  • Move around to keep the blood flowing to all parts of your body.
  • Take regular breaks from the cold to warm up.
  • Drink hot liquids and eat often to warm your body from the inside.
First aid for being too cold

A worker who is too cold shivers uncontrollably, cannot think clearly, feels tired or sleepy, speaks slowly and unclearly, and stumbles when walking. This is a very dangerous condition. Often the person does not realize what is happening.

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  1. Get her to a dry, warm place.
  2. Cover her whole body with blankets or any fabric or material you can find. If possible cover her head.
  3. Give her warm, sweet drinks and sweet food, fruit, or candy. If you do not have anything sweet, give starchy foods like rice, bread, plantain, or potatoes.
  4. If she stops shivering but still has signs of being too cold, or if she loses consciousness, get medical help.


When one part of a person’s body is exposed to very cold temperatures, it can become numb and change color as it loses all feeling. This is called frostbite. Frostbite happens mostly on fingers, toes, and nose.

  1. Wrap the numb part with a dry cloth and warm it against another part of the person’s own body or someone else’s.
  2. Cover her to warm her whole body.
  3. Get medical attention quickly if the body part becomes hard.
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This page was updated:28 Feb 2021