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Outdoor Workers at Cold Stress Risk

Employers should be making sure their employees are protected from cold stress.

There are many types of jobs that expose workers to cold environments. These workers are at risk of cold stress. Freezing weather creates dangerous situations for workers that work outdoors or work in other areas that are not sufficiently insulated or heated.

Temperatures at freezing or below are considered factors for cold stress. When temperatures drop, wind speed increases, or when there is contact with cold water or surfaces, heat leaves your body more quickly. These conditions cause your body to work harder to keep your internal temperature warm. Prolonged exposure can cause the blood to shift away from your extremities, such as your hands, feet, arms, and legs. These types of conditions can lead to serious health problems.

Types of Cold Stress

There are several different types of cold stress that outdoors workers can experience. Oftentimes, the victim may be unaware that they are in danger. Hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot are the most common types of cold stress.

Hypothermia is a condition where the body’s core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal body function. Early symptoms of hypothermia are shivering, fatigue, confusion, loss of coordination. Moderate hypothermia becomes evident when the early symptoms worsen. However, severe hypothermia symptoms are no shivering, blue skin, and loss of consciousness.

Frostbite occurs when the skin actually freezes. This condition generally affects the extremities, usually the feet or hands. The affected areas will at first tingle, sting, or ache. This is followed by numbness. The skin color will change to red, purple, then white. In severe cases, blisters may appear.

Trench Foot is a condition caused by having one’s feet immersed in cold temperatures above freezing for extended periods. The symptoms are similar to frostbite but are generally less severe.

Preventative Measures

If working in freezing temperatures cannot be avoided, workers need to make sure they take precautions to ensure their safety. Employers should be making sure their employees are protected from cold stress.

  • Wear protective clothing – several layers of loose clothing
  • Protect your extremities – insulted boots, hats
  • Take work breaks indoors
  • Bring an extra change of clothes, gloves, socks, etc.
  • Avoid exposing bare skin to the elements.
  • Have hot packs and first aid kits available
  • Continue to check your and your coworkers’ physical condition.

Missouri Workers Compensation Lawyers

If you have been injured at work, it is important to speak to a workers’ compensation lawyer about your legal rights and options. Please contact attorney James M. Hoffmann for a free consultation about your case. Our legal team has a strong history of helping injured workers get medical attention and the financial compensation they need. Contact our St. Louis, Missouri workers compensation law firm to ensure that your rights are protected. Please call (314) 361-4300. You can also complete our Online Case Evaluation Form.

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Workers & Industry

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Updated: February 26, 2021