Any worker who is exposed to cold temperatures is at risk of cold stress, which can cause severe cold-related illnesses like hypothermia and frostbite. However, even minor injuries from cold stress could cause you to miss work or leave you unable to complete some of your duties, causing you to lose wages.
The Cincinnati workers’ compensation lawyers at O’Connor, Acciani & Levy help workers exposed to cold stress pursue workers’ compensation benefits, including the cost of medical treatment and lost wages. We can review your claim and explain the options that you may have available to you in a free, no obligation legal consultation.
What Is Cold Stress?
Cold stress is the result of cold temperatures, dampness and wind chills. These environmental factors contribute to a reduced core body temperature, which results in the body being prevented from warming itself up. Increased wind speed and dampness cause heat to leave the body more quickly. Cold stress can result in tissue damage, cold-related illnesses and possibly death.
Workers Who Are Most At Risk For Cold Stress
Some workers are at an increased risk of cold stress due to increased exposure to cold temperatures, including:
- Transit workers
- Construction workers
- Emergency responders (police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel)
- Snow cleanup crews
- Power company workers
- Any other workers who primarily work outdoors.
Types Of Cold Stress Injuries
These are a few of the most common types of injuries from cold stress:
Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature falls to less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia commonly occurs at very cold temperatures but it can occur at warmer temperatures above 40 degrees if a person gets colder because of sweat, rain or immersion in water.
Symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Uncontrollable shivering
- Loss of coordination
- Slow heart rate
- Slow breathing pace
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
Frostbite is caused when the skin or tissue freezes. This condition often affects the hands and feet. It is characterized by patches of reddened skin, often on the fingers, toes, ear lobes and nose. An affected body part can start to tingle or sting before going numb. Severe frostbite can result in the loss of the affected body part.
Trench foot is a non-freezing injury on the foot that is caused by prolonged exposure to cold or wet conditions when the foot is immersed in cold temperatures for extended periods of time. However, this condition can occur even in warmer temperatures as high as 60 degrees. Symptoms of this condition include:
- Leg cramps
- Reddening skin
How To Prevent Cold Stress
Even though workers exposed to the cold air are susceptible to cold stress, there are steps that employers can take to prevent cold stress. Employers have a duty to protect workers from known hazards, including cold stress that can result in physical injury or illness.
Some preventative measures include:
- Training employees – Employers should provide training to employees to alert them to the possible symptoms of cold stress. Employees should also know how to respond to potential cold stress injuries.
- Providing an indoor space for breaks – Employers should try to provide an indoor space for employee breaks. Employers should provide short, frequent breaks in an indoor space to prevent cold stress.
- Wearing protective clothing – Employees should wear several layers of loose clothing and protect their extremities with insulated boots and head coverings. Employees should also bring an extra change of clothes in case their clothes get wet.
- Avoiding cold weather – If it is possible, employers should postpone outdoor work for warmer weather or for warmer parts of the day.
- Monitoring workers – Employers should periodically check with their employees and their physical condition. The buddy system may also help alert employers when there is a potential problem.
- Providing first aid for cold weather exposure – Employers can have hot packs and first aid kits for their employees to quickly respond to cold stress injuries and help prevent them from worsening.
Contact A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer For Assistance
If you sustained a cold stress injury or illness at work, it is important to contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. He or she can explain your legal rights and options. If you have suffered hypothermia, trench foot or frostbite because of exposure to the cold, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation.
We provide a free consultation so we can evaluate your claim and possibility of recovering compensation. We are committed to protecting your legal rights and do not charge legal fees unless you receive compensation.