Now that the weather has turned colder, workers and their employers may need to prepare for it. Anyone who works outdoors knows that the Colorado winters can be harsh. Cold temperatures, snow and wind can create a perfect storm of slippery roads and frigid working conditions. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, taking the appropriate precautions to prevent injured workers is necessary.
The main enemy for outdoor workers in the winter is cold stress. This occurs when skin temperature drops, which can lead to a worker’s internal body temperature dropping to dangerous levels. This leads to conditions such as hypothermia, trench foot and frostbite. Aside from more permanent damage and death, a worker can contract any number of illnesses associated with the cold.
Even though OSHA does not have specific regulations for employers to follow, the agency will still hold employers responsible for ensuring the safety of their workers. Workers need to be trained in recognizing hazardous climate conditions and the symptoms of cold stress as early as possible. Choosing the proper clothing for winter weather is also critical.
Employers should also monitor weather conditions and workers. Warm areas with heaters and beverages should also be supplied for workers. Breaks should be provided in order to keep workers warm. Working in pairs and scheduling projects during the warmest hours of the day could also help keep workers from suffering injuries and illnesses due to the cold weather.
Injured workers can receive benefits from the Colorado workers’ compensation system to cover their medical expenses and any expenses related to their recovery. In addition, partial or permanent disability benefits may also be available. Other benefits may be available if a worker is no longer able to perform the duties he or she was responsible for when the injury occurred. If a worker dies, his or her family may also apply for workers’ compensation benefits to cover funeral and burial costs and a compensation package for the loss of their loved one’s income.
Source: osha.gov, “Winter Weather“, Nov. 30, 2014