As record cold makes its way across the country, it is important to think about the safety of workers who do their jobs in cold conditions, whether outside or inside. Cold exposure can be a source of injuries and even death for workers. Employers have a duty to protect their employees by complying with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
Cold Exposure Injuries
Exposure to cold without proper protection can result in severe injury to the body. The stress from a cold environment means the body must work harder to maintain a normal temperature. Without protection or intervention, the skin temperature drops first, and then the core temperature of the body. The following are the most common injuries from cold:
- Frostbite: Tissue frozen by severe cold can be damaged to the point where feeling and color is lost permanently. Severe frostbite injuries may require amputation.
- Hypothermia: This condition develops when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit because heat is being lost faster than it can be replaced. Hypothermia can occur more quickly if the person is wet. Severe hypothermia leads to the body shutting down and can be fatal.
- Trench Foot: This injury to the feet occurs after prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. As the body tries to prevent heat loss, it constricts blood vessels and circulation in the feet is shut down, killing the tissue. Feet lose heat 25 times faster when they are wet.
- Chilblain: This is a skin condition caused by repeated exposure to cold that damages the capillary beds permanently. Frequently seen in the fingers and toes, as well as the cheeks and ears, the affected area turns red and itchy.
Who is at Risk?
Anyone working outside in cold temperatures must be aware of the risk of cold exposure, including postal workers, construction workers, utility workers, firefighters, and police. Indoor workers that endure a cold environment include warehouse workers, those in the food processing and cold storage industries, and supermarket workers.
Preventing Cold Injuries
Workers should receive training in preventing cold injuries and recognizing the warning signs of hypothermia. One of the most important factors in surviving hypothermia is quick intervention and treatment.
To prevent cold injuries, workers should:
- Dress in loose layers to promote circulation of warm blood to the extremities
- Wear protection for the face, ears, hands, and feet. Leave as little skin exposed to cold as possible and stay dry as dampness increases the rate of heat loss.
- Take frequent breaks in warm, dry shelters to regain body temperature. Eating and drinking warm, high-calorie foods and drinks helps the body maintain its temperature. Stay away from alcohol.
Piscataway Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Fight for Workers Injured by Cold Exposure
If you were injured by exposure to cold conditions on the job, you may be eligible for compensation. At the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr, our Piscataway Workers’ Compensation lawyers provide personalized legal representation for each injured worker. Call us at 877-249-4600 today to schedule a free consultation or contact us online. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we assist injured workers throughout New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, and Colonia.