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How Temperature Can Play a Role in Work-Related Injuries

Extreme temperatures pose a serious threat to the safety and well-being of workers.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), those who work in extremely cold or hot environments are at high risk of cold or heat stress. While most people think that only outdoor workers are prone to suffering from effects of cold or hot temperatures, even indoor workers who are exposed to extreme temperatures can suffer injuries. In this post, our work injury lawyer will discuss how extreme temperatures increase the risk of worker injury.

Worker injuries caused by extreme cold

Worker who are exposed to extremely cold working conditions are at high risk of suffering cold weather related illnesses and injuries. The factors that increase the injury risk are:

Dampness: When workers are exposed to dampness in the air, rain or submersion in water, their body temperature can come down rapidly. While hypothermia is common at colder temperatures, damp or wet conditions can cause hypothermia even at temperatures above 40 degree.

Wind: The combination of air movement and temperature is referred to as wind chill. The higher the speed of the wind, and the lower the temperature, the greater the risk.

Fatigue and other medical conditions: When a worker who is fatigued or in poor health is made to work in colder conditions, the risk of injury increases. Cold temperatures force the body to work harder in order to maintain body heat, and this extra exhaustion can cause health problems such as poor circulation and heart problems.

Ways to prevent injuries resulting from colder temperatures

OSHA recommends the following safeguards:

  • wearing multiple layers of weather appropriate clothing
  • drinking warm liquids
  • consuming a nutritional diet
  • avoiding alcoholic beverages
  • taking frequent breaks to warm up

Worker injuries caused by extreme heat

Extremely hot temperatures are as dangerous as cold temperatures for workers. Working in hot temperatures can cause injuries such as:

  • Heat stroke
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Breakdown of muscle tissue
  • Death

Each year, more than three dozen workers get killed while working in high temperatures, and 4,000 become ill. According to the CDC, exposure to extreme heat increases the risk for traumatic injuries. Workers who are older, overweight, in poor physical condition or those who take certain medications are at a higher risk of suffering heat-related injuries.

Common conditions associated with working in extreme heat

Heat exhaustion: When the body losses too much salt and water, it can cause heat exhaustion. The worker can become weak, dizzy and ill.

Heat stroke: This is a serious heat related illness, and occurs when the worker’s body is no longer able to regulate its temperature. When the sweating mechanism fails, the worker’s body is no longer able to cool down, and the temperature can increase rapidly. If the condition is not treated promptly, it can cause permanent disability and even death.

Rhabdomyolysis: When a worker works in high temperatures for a long time, it can result in rupture, breakdown, or death of muscle tissue. This can release electrolytes and large proteins into the bloodstream, and cause irregular heartbeat, seizures and kidney damage.

Ways to prevent injuries resulting from colder temperatures

  • Proper Hydration is Key
  • Frequent Breaks
  • Acclimation
If you have suffered a temperature related illness or injury due to your working conditions, you may be entitled to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Get in touch with our experienced workers comp attorneys to learn more about your legal rights. Call (314) 361-4300 and schedule a free consultation.
Updated: October 14, 2022