As cold weather rolls across much of the country, workers exposed to low temperatures should take extra precautions to protect themselves this winter. Many workers spend the workday in the comfort of heated office spaces. However, others, including construction workers, mail carriers, and power-line workers, spend long hours exposed to natural elements and the dangers they pose. These workers should learn the signs of cold-weather illness and injury and how to prevent and treat them.
Frostbite is the freezing of skin and its underlying tissues caused by exposure to cold, windy weather. Frostbite usually affects the cheeks, fingers, nose, and toes, but can occur anywhere on the body. Frostbite damage happens in stages. The first stage—known as frostnip—is treated with basic first-aid beginning with warming the skin. Later stages require medical intervention to prevent serious or permanent damage to bones, muscles, and tissues. Early signs of frostbite include cold and red skin that later becomes hard, numb, and pale.
Hypothermia is a dangerously low body temperature that occurs when the body loses heat faster than it produces it. Hypothermia generally occurs when the body’s temperature dips below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, after exposure to cold water or weather. A low body temperature causes the body’s basic functions to shut down. Without treatment hypothermia causes the heart and respiratory system to fail. Hypothermia can be fatal. Signs of hypothermia include confusion, shivering, and a weak pulse. Elevating the victim’s body temperature treats hypothermia.
Workers exposed to cold weather need to consider more than just the temperature when it comes to preventing frostbite and hypothermia. The wind chill factor makes two different days with the same temperature feel very different. A 35-degree day with no wind chill feels much warmer than a 35-degree day with strong, gusty winds blowing against the body. Workers need to prepare for how cold the day feels, not just what the temperature reads.
The best defense against cold weather injury and illness is appropriate clothing and equipment. Cold weather gear should allow for maximum movement, resist moisture, and offer sufficient insulation. It should also be lightweight and easy to put on and remove so workers can perform their job duties unrestricted. Thermal underwear and wool pants, shirts, and socks provide warmth without weight.
Every employee should be aware of the hazards of their profession. They should know the signs of danger and how to handle them quickly and effectively.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Gross Represent Workers Injured on the JobIf you or someone you love has been injured on the job, contact a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Gross. Call 267-589-0090 or complete our online form to schedule an initial consultation. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, allowing us to serve Pennsylvania and New Jersey.