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Be careful -- cold stress can lead to permanent disability

Winter will soon be here in full force, and Colorado workers in some occupations will be susceptible to a variety of seasonal injuries called "cold stress." Affected employees can be any of those whose occupations keep them exposed to cold weather. These include outdoor construction workers, sanitation employees, law enforcement officers, snow removal workers, emergency medical technicians, firefighters and more. Without proper precautions, cold stress can cause severe bodily harm -- in fact, it could even cause permanent disability or death.

For that reason, it is important for workers to be informed of the risks and provided with the training to know how to protect themselves against the cold. The danger sets in when the body cannot produce heat faster than the rate at which it is losing it. The natural process of the body is to keep the core temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If it needs extra heat to protect the vital organs, it will draw heat from the extremities, leaving the toes, fingers, ears and nose vulnerable to chilblains and frostbite. If the internal temperature of the body drops to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia will set in.

Factors that make employees more vulnerable to the cold include damp clothes, wind and the time of day -- notably the absence of warmth from the sun. Physical exhaustion and dehydration can speed up cold stress, and age plays a role because the body's efficiency in regulating temperature diminishes with age. Health problems such as diabetes and hypertension can make an employee more susceptible, and personal protective equipment and proper clothing are vital.

Any Colorado worker who suffers a permanent disability will be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Along with the usual compensation for medical expenses, he or she may be awarded additional financial benefits to cover lost income. However, a victim of debilitating injuries may request vocational rehabilitation. With the help of an experienced workers' compensation attorney, it might be easier to obtain the maximum level of compensation that could also include learning new skills to maintain the ability to earn an income.

Source: safetyservicescompany.com, "Cold weather is right around the corner", J.R. Moody, Sept. 18, 2017

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