Airport Ground Support
Equipment Resources

Toolbox Talk – Cold Illness Identification


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Cold environments present unique hazards for workers. Overexposure to extreme cold weather can quickly become a dangerous condition causing a variety of health emergencies, including frostbite, hypothermia, and chilblains.

Airport workers can be subject to cold stress in several settings, such as on the ramp surface and working with metal equipment. Cold stress occurs when an individual’s skin and core temperature drop. Employers may use this toolbox talk to educate employees about the hazards leading to cold stress illnesses and injuries and how to prevent them.

What is Cold Stress?

Cold stress includes several familiar conditions that can lead to illness and injury. These are outlined below with associated responses:

Cold Stree Hypothermia Cold Stree Chilblains

Preventing Cold Stress: Educate Employees

  • About the hazards leading to cold stress illnesses and injuries and how to prevent them
  • How to recognize symptoms
  • To immediately report symptoms

 Safe Work Practices

  • Workers can easily become dehydrated in cold environments. Ensure warm (sweetened if possible) liquids are available to workers.
  • New employees should acclimatize to the environment, gradually increasing their workload or taking more frequent breaks in warm areas.
  • Workers should be able to interrupt their work if they are extremely uncomfortable.
  • Set up a buddy system if possible.
  • When taking breaks, remove outer layers of clothing to prevent overheating.


  • Ensure employees are dressed properly for cold environments. Loose, layered clothing provides better insulation.
    • Inner layer to keep moisture away from body
    • Middle layer to provide insulation
    • Outer layer for wind, rain, and temperature protection that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating
  • Have an extra change of clothes such as socks, gloves, and hat in case they become saturated from water/sweat.
  • Hat or hood to help reduce heat loss from body. Use a mask to cover face and mouth if necessary.
  • Insulated gloves and boots (water resistant if necessary).

Cold Stree Table 1

OSHA Cold Stress Guide:

 Note: Check with specific State Plans for additional requirements.

For additional information:

OSHA Winter Weather Page:

OSHA Cold Stress Quick Card in English ( and Spanish (

NIOSH Cold Stress Page:

NIOSH Fast Facts: Protecting Yourself From Cold Stress:

National Weather Service Winter Safety Page:

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Cold Stree Additional Tool

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace and workers have rights. OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. For more information, contact your regional or area OSHA office, call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), or visit

Through the OSHA and Airline Group Safety Panel Alliance, the Airline Ground Safety Panel developed this toolbox talk for informational purposes only. It does not necessarily reflect the official views of OSHA or the U.S. Department of Labor.