Workers in Pennsylvania employed outdoors during the wintertime may be at risk of certain cold weather work injuries.
Taking precautions to prevent cold weather injuries is important; however, in the event that a weather-related work injury does occur, know that workers’ compensation insurance will probably cover losses. When working, be sure to beware of these common cold weather injuries.
Hypothermia is one of the most common cold weather work injuries, and occurs when a body’s internal temperature drops to a dangerously low level. When temperatures outside are very cold, your body may begin to lose heat faster than it can create it, putting you at risk of hypothermia. Symptoms of hypothermia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include the following.
- Lack of coordination
As your body’s temperature drops further, a slowed pulse and changes to skin color will begin to occur. You can avoid hypothermia by wearing weather-appropriate clothing and going indoors if temperatures are especially cold.
Frostbite is another serious injury caused by cold weather exposure. Specifically, frostbite occurs when the skin actually freezes. When frostbite is severe, it can result in the loss of the affected area (e.g., finger amputation). Early signs of frostbite are recognizable through numbness, tingling sensations, bluish-colored skin, and lack of blood flow to fingers or toes. If you notice any of the above, go inside immediately and seek warmth.
The third most common cold weather injury that outdoor workers may be at risk of is trench foot. Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, occurs when feet are exposed to moisture and cold temperatures for a prolonged amount of time. However, when feet are constantly wet, trench foot can occur even when temperatures are as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit. When trench foot occurs, the skin of the feet begins to die as a result of lack of oxygen. To prevent trench foot/immersion foot, always work in waterproof shoes and dry your feet as soon as possible if they get wet.
Here are just a few tips to stay safe when working outside in the winter:
- Wear several layers of clothing. The layers should fit loosely because tight clothing reduces blood circulation and warm blood needs to be circulated to the extremities.
- When choosing clothing, be aware that some clothing may restrict movement which, in and of itself, may create a hazardous working situation.
- Make sure to protect the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold weather. Boots should be waterproof and insulated, and be sure to wear a hat. The goal should be to expose as little skin as possible to the cold environment.
- Workers in extreme conditions should take frequent, short breaks in warm, dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up.
- Drink warm beverages and eat warm, high-calorie foods.
- Avoid exhaustion and fatigue because they sap energy, and energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
- Use the buddy system – work in pairs so that one worker can recognize danger signs.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to help workers.
If you have suffered a work-related injury in Pennsylvania, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation insurance. The attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC can help you to learn more about your rights as an injured worker, and file a claim for compensation today. Just call Cordisco & Saile at 215-642-2335.