Volume 17, Number 9 (January 2020)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

Working Safely in Cold Weather: Leave Winter Tragedies to the Storytellers

Tales of adventure in the frozen north are not all just fantasies about singing snowmen. In Jack London’s chilling short story, “To Build A Fire,” the perilous tale of a man’s journey through the Yukon unfolds. The unnamed man makes many mistakes, such as not having the proper personal protective equipment to protect his face (the “nose-strap” that “passed across the cheeks, as well”), underestimating the temperature (–75°F) and potential dangers of the frozen environment, and traveling alone (except for a dog). During his trek, his misfortunes mount: falling through some ice and getting his feet wet, experiencing frostbite, burning his frozen hands while failing to start a fire, and eventually succumbing to hypothermia.

While most workers in the United States will not face the extremes of a sunless day in the middle of winter in the frozen Yukon, many are at risk for cold-related illnesses and injuries. Some of these illnesses and injuries, like trench foot or immersion hypothermia, can occur in not so frigid temperatures, putting workers in even moderate climates at risk. Employers should take the time needed to prepare their outdoor workers for winter hazards, including the following steps:

  • Train supervisors and workers to prevent, recognize, and treat cold-related illness and injury. Communicate to them in a language and vocabulary that they understand.
  • Reduce workers’ time spent in the cold. Allow them access to warm areas and a place to change out of cold, wet clothes. Tell your workers to take breaks to warm up, when needed. Rotate them in and out of more demanding jobs or use relief workers.
  • When possible, use the warmest part of the day for the coldest jobs. Schedule regular maintenance and repairs during the warmer months.
  • Monitor workers in cold conditions and initiate a buddy system.
  • Have a plan for assessing and acting on workplace haz­ards posed by sudden weather changes, such as dropping temperatures or increasing wind speeds.
  • Provide prompt medical attention to workers who show signs of cold-related illness or injury. Maintain a first aid kit with medical and environmental thermometers and chemical hot packs.
  • Ensure that workers traveling through or working in re­mote areas have appropriate cold-weather survival equip­ment, such as emergency communications equipment like a personal locator beacon or satellite phone. Make sure they also have appropriate cold weather gear, such as hats, gloves, and boots, and wind protective clothing based on air velocities.
Stay Safe

For more information on cold stress, see the newly published NIOSH Workplace Solutions: Preventing Cold-related Illness, Injury, and Death Among Workers, visit the NIOSH Cold Stress webpage and follow #workingincold on social media this winter.

Research Rounds
Inside NIOSH:
Work-related Injuries More Common Among Temporary Workers

Temporary workers had a higher rate of workers’ compensation claims for injuries than did permanent workers, according to a large study in Ohio published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

As the nature of work continues to change, temporary workers are becoming more common in many workplaces. These workers may work for staffing agencies or be on-call, contract, or freelance workers.

This study looked at more than 1.3 million injury claims to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation during 2001 to 2013. Of these claims, 45,046 were from temporary employment agency workers. The rate of injury in this group of workers was 11.6 per 100 workers, compared to a rate of 4.9 among permanent workers. In terms of age, injured temporary workers were about 5 years younger than permanent workers. In addition, temporary workers had worked for the organization for a shorter time before the injury occurred. Nearly half as many temporary workers as permanent workers had worked for the organization for 3 months or longer when the injury caused them to miss 8 or more workdays.

These findings are comparable to other workers’ compensation studies in Washington and Illinois. Although the findings can help inform efforts to protect temporary workers from injury, more research is needed to understand how to prevent these injuries from occurring.

More information is available: Protecting Temporary Workers.

Outside NIOSH:
Tool Helps Construction Companies Evaluate Jobsite Safety Climate

A new resource, known as the Safety Climate Assessment Tool (S-CAT), can help construction companies evaluate their jobsite safety climate, reports a NIOSH-funded study published in the Journal of Safety Researchexternal icon.

Jobsite safety climate is defined as employees’ shared perceptions of the consistency between a company’s stated safety policies and procedures and actual jobsite practices. Studies have shown that a strong safety climate is associated with better safety and health outcomes.

Despite advances to improve safety and health in construction, it remains one of the most hazardous industries. To address this issue, researchers at CPWR–The Center for Construction Research and Training and Washington State University partnered to develop the S-CAT. With this free online toolexternal icon, respondents use text-based scales to answer questions across these eight safety-climate factors:

  1. Demonstrating management commitment.
  2. Aligning and integrating safety as a value.
  3. Ensuring accountability at all levels.
  4. Improving site safety leadership.
  5. Empowering and involving workers.
  6. Improving communication.
  7. Training at all levels.
  8. Encouraging owner/client involvement.

Construction industry experts identified these factors while participating in a 2013 Safety Climate/Culture workshop sponsored by CPWR and NIOSH. The researchers used information from 985 respondents to confirm that these factors could reliably measure and also provide companies with a better understanding of their jobsite safety climate. With the S-CAT results in hand, a company can use CPWR’s safety climate workbookpdf iconexternal icon to identify specific interventions to target lower-scoring factors. Companies can then use the S-CAT at a future date to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions at improving safety climate.

More information is available:

Brrr written in the snow

Photo by ©Thinkstock.

NIOSH eNews is Brought to You By:

John Howard, M.D., Director
Christina Spring, Editor in Chief

Managing Editor
Tanya Headley

Section Editors
Anne Blank, Research Rounds
Kiana Harper, Monthly Features

Contributing Editors
Sarah Mitchell
Donjanea Williams

Copy Editor
Cheryl Hamilton

Technical Support
Steve Leonard, Technical Lead
Tonya White, Web Developer

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job vacancy megaphone

NIOSH Seeks Deputy Director for Health Effects Lab
NIOSH is looking for a Supervisory Research Health Scientistexternal icon (status candidatesexternal icon) or Biologistexternal icon (status candidatesexternal icon) to serve as the Deputy Director of the NIOSH Health Effects Laboratory Division. The Deputy Director provides guidance, technical direction, and administrative oversight of laboratory research and public health activities in a state-of-the-art occupational safety and health research facility located in Morgantown, West Virginia. The division research focuses on the sciences of allergy and clinical immunology, biostatistics and epidemiology, chemistry and exposure assessment, engineering controls, pathology, physiology, toxicology, and molecular biology. The vacancy closes January 10.

NIOSH Division Leadership Updates
Dr. Lauralynn Taylor McKernan has been appointed the new Director of the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering (DFSE), effective January 1. Dr. McKernan’s appointment follows the retirement of former DFSE Director Dr. Teresa (Terri) Schnorr. Dr. McKernan began her NIOSH career in 1997 as an industrial hygienist in the former Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluation and Field Studies (DSHEFS). Since then she has held numerous leadership positions in DSHEFS and the former Education and Information Division, both in Cincinnati Ohio.

NIOSH Talks Respirator Safety in National Mining Association Video
The NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Lab (NPPTL) recently developed a video on emergency air respiratorsexternal icon for the National Mining Association (NMA)external icon. The video includes a brief history of air respirators, an interview with NPPTL leadership, and a discussion of the air respirator certification process. The video is part of the NMA CORESafety TV series.

Study Illustrates Gaps in OSH Surveillance Data
A recent paper by Groenewold et al. estimates total yearly work-related illnesses and injuries occurring in the United States (overall and by NORA sector) based on an assessment of available data from 2012. Despite using the best and most comprehensive data currently available, significant data gaps remain. The limitations of the results illustrate areas where more or better occupational health surveillance data are needed. The results are described in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine and may be useful when preparing future project proposals.

NIOSH Contributes Hearing Loss Prevention Research to Special JASA Issue
NIOSH and members of the NORA Hearing Loss Prevention Council contributed to a recently-published special issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA) on noise-induced hearing loss, with six papers accepted. This special issue, Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: Translating Risk from Animal Models to Real-World Environmentsexternal icon, aims to describe patterns of injury caused by dangerous noise among various populations. The issue also seeks to understand what animal models or data are best applied to these various populations to determine potential drug interventions that may help reduce these injuries. Read the full NIOSH update.

Monthly Features

New Communication Products & Reports

FACE Report 

Fact Sheet

Health Hazard Evaluation Reports 




NIOSH Science Blog

Federal Register Notice

Request for Information for Six Chemicals to Develop Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) Values

The noticeexternal icon was posted on November 12. Comments must be received by January 13.

Proposed Data Collection Submitted for Public Comment and Recommendations

The noticeexternal icon was posted on November 20. Comments must be received by January 21.

Proposed Data Collection Submitted for Public Comment and Recommendations

The noticeexternal icon was posted on December 6. Comments must be received by February 4.

NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety Strategic Plan, 2020–2029

The noticeexternal icon was posted on December 16. Comments must be received by February 14.

Request for Information on Toxicological and Physicochemical Data of Engineered Nanomaterials to Evaluate in Developing Categorical Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs)

The noticeexternal icon was posted on December 17. Comments must be received by February 18.

National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)

Upcoming NORA Wholesale and Retail Trade (WRT) Council Meeting
The NORA WRT Sector Council will host its next virtual meeting on Friday, January 17, from 3–4 p.m. (ET). James Galante, an expert on retail handling, will be presenting “The Bad Ergonomics of Order Fulfillment and Stocking in the Retail Industry and What to Do About It!” Please contact Debbie Hornback if you are interested in attending or would like additional information.

News from Our Partners

Call for Session Proposals for Annual Research Day Symposium
The Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health is seeking Ignite Session Proposals for the 12th Annual Research Day Symposium. These short, five-minute presentations can cover past or present experiences, research, or projects in the field of environmental and occupational health and safety. Deadline for submissions is January 17. Learn moreexternal icon.

Read the Current OSHA Releases QuickTakes Now
OSHA recently released their quarterly QuickTakes Newsletterexternal icon. This issue highlights stories on enforcement and compliance statistics for fiscal year 2019 and offers tips on how to protect workers during the holiday season and cope with work-related stress.

New Workplace Resource in Agriculture Aims to Prevent Sexual Harassment
The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Centerexternal icon (PNASH) recently released the ¡Basta! (Stop!) Prevent Sexual Harassment in Agricultureexternal icon worksite training and toolkit. Available in English and Spanish, the toolkit provides guidance and tools to train employees, share key resources, and establish workplace policies in the agriculture industry. PNASH is one of 11 NIOSH-funded Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health (Ag Centers).

Webinars, Conferences & Events

Call for Multimedia Submissions

World Health Organization Health for All Film Festival
Deadline for entriesexternal icon is January 30.

International Media Festival for Prevention
Deadline for entriesexternal icon is February 29.

Call for Manuscripts

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health Special Edition
Deadline for manuscript submissionexternal icon is January 31.

Upcoming Conferences

National Safety Council Work to Zero Summitexternal icon
February 13–14, Bonita Springs, Florida

12th Annual Research Day Symposiumexternal icon
March 26, Westminster, Colorado

Toxicology and Risk Assessment Conferenceexternal icon
April 20–23, Cincinnati, Ohio

30th Annual Art & Science of Health Promotion Conferenceexternal icon
April 20–24, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

World Health Organization Health for All Film Festivalexternal icon
May 16–22, Geneva, Switzerland

7th International Conference on the History of Occupational and Environmental Healthexternal icon
May 27–29, Durban, South Africa

National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing & Media
August 10–12, Atlanta, Georgia

XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Workexternal icon
October 4–7, Toronto, Canada

International Media Festival for Preventionexternal icon
October 4–7, Toronto, Canada

Page last reviewed: January 2, 2020