New ISO standard will help to manage HSE risk in cold workplaces

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A new ISO standard provides a comprehensive methodology for assessing risk and managing work in cold environments.

Due to the negative impact of cold on human health and performance, as well as on work productivity, quality and safety, a comprehensive strategy of risk assessment and management practices and methods is needed for work in cold environments.

ISO 15743:2008, Ergonomics of the thermal environment – Cold workplaces – Risk assessment and management, has been developed to describe the methods and practices for assessing and managing occupational health and performance risks in cold workplaces.

The standard gives practical instructions for risk analysis and management in cold working conditions. It describes:

  • a model and methods for risk assessment practices in cold work
  • a model and method for occupational health care professionals to identify individuals having symptoms which
  • increase their cold sensitivity, plus optimal guidance and instructions for individual cold protection
  • informative guidelines on how to apply different international thermal standards and other validated scientific
  • methods when assessing cold related risks
  • a model and methods for cold risk management practices
  • practical examples of working in cold conditions.

Working in a cold environment can involve several adverse effects on human performance and health: thermal discomfort, increased strain, decreased performance and cold-related diseases and injuries. Cold can also interfere with several other factors in the workplace, modifying or aggravating the risk of common hazards and increasing the risk of cold-associated injuries.

A number of industries, type of commerce and occupations involve substantial cold exposure:

outdoors (such as the construction industry, maintenance of electrical power lines, gas lines, telecommunication systems or road, agriculture and forestry work, fishing industry)  indoors (meat processing industry, cold stores in industry and in the transport chain from industry to the shops). It includes working inside vehicles and inland and offshore work but the standard is not applicable to diving or other types of work performed underwater.

“ISO 15743:2008 complements a series of ISO standards concerned with work in cold conditions as well as other areas of thermal stress. It supports good occupational health and safety practice and will help developers, manufacturers, management, occupational safety personnel, occupational health care workers and others.' comments Prof. Ken Parsons, Chair of the ISO subcommittee that developed the standard.

ISO 15743:2008, Ergonomics of the thermal environment – Cold workplaces – Risk assessment and management, was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 159, Ergonomics, subcommittee SC 5, Ergonomics of the physical environment, It costs 120 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing & Communication department (see right-hand column).

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