Working in Cold Conditions
January 10, 2020
Those who work in cold environments may be at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot, and other conditions caused by cold stress. As the winter season approaches, workers should be aware of the risk factors associated with cold conditions and the ways in which they can protect themselves from the weather.
Use Caution in Extreme Cold
In Pennsylvania, the weather can change rapidly. Many workers are at risk of cold stress injuries and illnesses, including sanitation workers, police officers, first responders, and workers who perform snow removal. Those who work outside should therefore be prepared, as temperatures may drop or winds may pick up unexpectedly during the winter months.
What constitutes extreme cold is a subjective determination that varies by region; in some parts of the country, extreme cold is below zero degrees Fahrenheit, whereas in areas that do not typically have cold weather, near-freezing temperatures are considered extreme. However, whenever the body is exposed to an unusually cold environment, it is forced to work harder to maintain its core temperature. Workers who fail to take safety precautions against cold stress may suffer various injuries and illnesses.
Cold Stress Injuries and Illnesses
When low temperatures drive the body’s core temperature down, it can lead to serious injuries or even death. Factors such as how damp it is outside, how physically fit a worker is, and whether a worker has any predisposing health conditions contribute to cold stress and affect a worker’s risk of injury or illness. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), both air temperature and wind speed contribute to the cold’s harmful effects on exposed skin.
Workers who are injured from working in cold conditions may need a lawyer to assist them with their workers’ compensation claim. In Pennsylvania, most employees are eligible to receive benefits, including medical expenses and wage loss compensation for work-related injuries and illnesses. Some compensable cold stress injuries and illnesses include:
- Hypothermia: When prolonged exposure to extremely cold conditions causes the body’s core temperature to drop below 95 degrees, it eventually causes the brain and internal organs to shut down, a condition known as hypothermia. Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition for which workers should seek immediate medical attention.
- Frostbite: When the skin and underlying tissues become frozen, it can lead to frostnip, a mild and impermanent form of frostbite. Working in cold conditions can also lead to severe frostbite, which can cause permanent damage and long-term complications.
- Trench foot: When workers’ feet are wet for too long, they may develop trench foot, a condition that can lead to tissue loss, nerve damage, and amputation if left untreated.
Safety Tips for Working in Cold Conditions
Workers who will be exposed to cold temperatures this winter season can safeguard themselves against cold stress injuries. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, employers must also help protect workers from workplace hazards, such as extreme temperatures. Tips for staying safe in cold conditions include:
- Wearing several layers of loosely fitting clothing
- Protecting exposed skin by wearing gloves, a hat, and waterproof shoes
- Taking frequent breaks in warm and dry shelter
- Drinking warm beverages to keep hydrated and eating high-calorie foods to avoid fatigue
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Workers Suffering Cold Stress Injuries
If were injured due to working in cold conditions, the Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. can help. We will analyze your case and obtain the benefits you rightfully deserve for your injuries. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.
Located in Philadelphia, Bensalem, Lansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.