Today, we’re taking a look at cold-weather injuries and workers who are at risk from them. It might seem odd to talk about cold weather injuries at the beginning of spring. After all, when we think of occupations at risk for cold-weather injuries, we typically think of construction workers, emergency medical service providers, public safety officers, sanitation crews, and others who work outdoors. Interestingly, though, those aren’t the only workers exposed to cold weather injury risk. Food supply workers who work in refrigerated conditions, meat-packing facility workers, and cold storage warehouse employees are exposed to hazardous working conditions year-round and need to take precautions to avoid workplace injury.
According to OSHA, the most common cold-weather injuries are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot. While those are the most common and quantifiable conditions, though, a more general term for the physical strain of working in temperatures substantially below normal body temperature is “cold stress.” When the body loses heat rapidly, body systems tend to go into overdrive to create and conserve warmth and maintain temperature. This places considerable strain on your physical energy resources, and, if experienced frequently, can result in weakened immunities and other susceptibilities.
What do you need to be aware of personally and legally?
Here are a few preventative recommendations to start with: 1) Dress appropriately for the conditions. Include face and eye protection in your preparation. 2) Familiarize yourself with the signs of cold stress and cold-related injuries as well as rewarming techniques so that you can get care immediately when you begin experiencing symptoms. 3) Keep a dry change of clothes available. The risk of cold weather injury is much higher when you’re wearing wet clothing or equipment. 4) Stretch your muscles before and after a work shift to restore and maintain healthy blood flow and drink plenty of water.
If you’re already suffering from physical symptoms that you believe are related to your work environment, then we invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our workers’ comp attorneys to see if you are eligible for support and compensation for a cold-related injury.