In the harsh winter months in Colorado, outdoor workers must take serious precautions to prevent cold stress injuries. Employers should have cold weather guidelines in place for their workers but that is not always the case. You as the worker should make sure you understand when you have been in the cold too long and also steps to prevent these types of injuries.
What are the most common occupations for cold hazard injuries?
Sanitation workers, construction workers, police and emergency worker personnel, snow removal workers, loggers, utility workers, postal workers, dairy farmers, athletes, meat packers, road repair workers and a variety of other types of positions that require hours of outdoor work or work in non -heated areas.
What type of cold hazard injuries can occur from extreme temperatures?
- Frostbite – this is when ice crystals can form on your skin, muscles, nerves and /or blood vessels. Many times frost bite damages so badly that amputation is required. If the limb is saved, you can still suffer from severe nerve damage where there is numbness or pain.
- Hypothermia – OSHA describes that hypothermia occurs when "body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced and the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F. Hypothermia is most likely to occur in very cold temperatures, but it can happen in cool temperatures (above 40°F) or even warmer, especially if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water."
- Trench Foot (or immersion foot) - This is when the foot is constantly wet and can actually occur in temperatures as high as 60 degrees. Wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet and when this happens, the skin tissue can begin to die.
- Conditions like arthritis, asthma or chronic lung disease can be aggravated in cold weather conditions. Working in cold weather can also increase the risk of sprains and other injuries.
What are signs that you are beginning to suffer from one of these cold hazard injuries?
- Reddened skin where there are white or gray patches developing.
- Limbs going numb.
- Limbs are too firm or hard.
- In severe cases, blisters may occur.
- Dizziness and confusion.
What are ways to prevent these injuries from happening?
- Dress properly and in layers.
- Stay dry.
- Have extra clothing if you do get wet!
- Drink warm sweetened liquid.
- Wear insulated and waterproof boots and gloves.
- Wear proper hat or knit mask to protect face and neck.
- Take breaks to where you can warm up!
How do I know if I need to seek medical attention?
- If you have frostbite or hypothermia, seek medical attention immediately. If this has occurred on the job, you will most likely need to see one of your employer's work injury doctors.
- Trench foot can often times be treated at home but needs to be watched closely. If it worsens, seek medical attention.
What is the recovery time for cold injuries?
- This truly depends on how severe the injury is. For example, with a frostbite injury, it depends on how much the tissue was damaged and if an infection has set in. It can sometimes take anywhere from one to three months to truly be able to decipher how much of the tissue was actually damaged.
- If your injury was less severe, you can heal very quickly and be able to return to work ASAP.
If you are a Colorado worker that has suffered from some of these injuries and would like a free consultation with a professional work injury attorney, please contact associates at the Babcock Law Firm to discuss your case and ensure you receive proper treatment and compensation for your injuries.
Take these precautions seriously and bundle up properly while you work!
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