What is the importance of the Cold Work tab in the Permit to Work (PTW), in OHS Online?
A very good question! The Cold Work tab of the PTW must be selected whenever any cold work is included in any of the work processes the contractor does. Cold work is any type of work performed in low temperature environments. This type of work is considered 'high risk' because of the different effects a cold environment can have on a person working it in.
Any person working in a cold (low temperature) environment has three main factors affecting their ability to work in that environment safely:
1. Air temperature - how cold is the air around the person?
2. Air movement - how fast is the air moving around the person (this is often called wind speed)?
3. Air humidity - how wet is the air around the person?
Individually, each factor affects the safety of a person working in a low temperature environment, however, when these factors are combined, their effects are compounded and the risks to the person working are increased. More often than not, a person working in a low temperature environment, will be exposed to more than just one of these factors, so they are likely to be exposed to the compounded effects of these factors.
When low air temperature and air movement (wind speed) are combined they produce an effect called Wind Chill, which essentially causes the person exposed to feel colder, quicker. The faster the wind speed, the greater the wind chill effect, the greater the risk to the person becoming colder more quickly and the greater the risk on that person's safety. These effects will be particularly pronounced where any bare skin is exposed.
Air humidity is basically the wetness in the air. Water itself, is able to conduct heat away from a body 25 times faster than dry air, so the greater the humidity in the air the greater the risk of a person being exposed to the loss of body heat when working at low temperatures. These effects will be particularly pronounced where any bare skin is exposed.
The Cold Work tab helps to ensure formal checks are made and associated safety precautions are taken for any cold work conducted. This tab allows cold effects to be noted and factors such as wind chill to be roughly calculated and recorded so that reasonable safety precautions can be put into place in order to ensure the work is conducted under safe working conditions. Through these measures, any necessary check measures, required to ensure work performed in low temperature environments, is performed as safely as possible, whether it be inside fridges, cold storage rooms or exposed warehouse areas in mid-winter.