Colorado may be about half way through the winter months, but there will be plenty more cold days before Spring. For anyone who works outside, the cold is more than just an inconvenience — it is a serious hazard. Companies need to take additional precautions in cold weather in order to prevent injured workers.
Hypothermia, trench foot and frostbite are the three most common cold-related conditions outdoor workers can contract. Hypothermia can occur when a worker’s body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If a worker’s feet are consistently wet and cold, he or she can develop trench foot. Frostbite occurs when skin and tissue freeze — often in extremely cold conditions.
Employers are responsible for training managers, supervisors and employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of these cold-related illnesses. Knowing what to do when those signs and symptoms appear is also crucial since time is of the essence in order to eliminate, or at least limit, any potential injuries, illnesses or even deaths. Moreover, employers need to provide workers with the opportunity to take breaks in order to get warm. Beverages that are warm and sweet can help keep employees internal body temperatures up as well.
Anyone who has lived in Colorado long enough understands the need to stay warm during the winter. Many residents opt to go out in the winter elements for short spurts in order to avoid these cold-related issues. However, some workers are not afforded the option of staying indoors.
Even if precautions are taken, some workers may still suffer as a result of being in the winter elements. Injured workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses, related costs and an income package for time missed from work while recovering. Further, if recovery will ultimately prevent the employee from returning to work, additional benefits may be available to cover lost income and other needs. Help may be needed in order to ensure that all of the benefits to which a worker may be entitled are secured.
Source: osha.gov, “Winter Weather“, Accessed on Feb. 6, 2015