Cold stress occurs when skin temperature, and eventually the internal core temperature of the body, reduces to a level which is dangerous for health. When the body cannot get itself warm (through shivering or movement), serious health issues can occur.

What is Cold Stress?

When the human body can no longer maintain a normal temperature, the individual can be exposed to cold-related injuries and illnesses, potentially resulting in death or bodily harm. As an environment becomes colder, the body must work more to maintain its temperature. This can become an issue if precautions aren’t taken and the effects of cold upon the body aren’t acted upon.

If cold conditions persist, the body’s blood flow will move from extremities such as hands and feet to the core of your body. This can expose the body to cold stress hazards such as frostbite, hypothermia, chilblains or even trench foot.

What are the Signs of Cold Stress?

Some are more subtle than others, but without you fully realising it you could be experiencing multiple symptoms of cold stress at work! Keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Blue lips and fingers
  • Confusion
  • Reduced alertness
  • Stiffness of muscles
  • Shivering

Could I Get Cold Stress?

If you’re not careful, yes. According to studies, 5 million people die from temperature-related issues every year, with cold-related mortality seeing a majority of these. If you work in cold environments or find yourself working on a site outside over winter, the combination of wetness, wind and cold is a harsh reality.

Steps can be taken to reduce these risks, including more breaks, shelter and heaters which are suitable for work environments.

What Measures Can I Take to Avoid Cold Stress?

There are a number of strategies and protocols you can employ to reduce cold stress, which are even more effective if you combine them!


  • Dress in layers. Keeping skin and layers waterproof is really important, and the more layers you have, the more likely the clothes on the skin are to stay dry
  • Ensure clothing is baggy; it is a common misconception that it has to be tight. You need airflow to stay warm
  • The first layer should be for absorption of sweat
  • A middle insulating layer should be applied which consists of wool, cotton, or a fleece
  • Finally, an outer layer of waterproof clothing or material should be worn
  • To keep feet warm and dry, two layers of socks may also be necessary. One later to absorb sweat and another to insulate, using the examples of materials above
  • If you’re working in wet conditions, be sure to use waterproof footwear
  • If it is dark, or you're working in dangerous conditions, reflective clothing over the top (such as jackets and gilets) will be needed
  • Wear gloves, especially if you will need to touch potentially cold materials (such as metal ladders)


  • Using heating equipment such as fuel heaters or radiant heaters in the workplace can warm the air, and keep workers from working in cold conditions.

  • Protect workers from wind and weather by either utilising the workplace and location of work (if possible) or through the use of barriers
  • Insulating material on equipment, especially equipment with metal handles that is used frequently
  • Employ a buddy system so workers can keep an eye on each other and be aware for signs of cold stress
  • Keep a Wind Chill Chart around your workplace alongside a thermometer so your team can observe any changes in temperature whilst observing the chart

Following these steps can be crucial in keeping yourself and your team warm, dry and safe throughout this long winter period.

If you have any questions about our equipment or services, please send an enquiry to your local Speedy depot.

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