An estimated 20,000 employees each year get cold stress injuries at work due to freezing weather. Here’s some prevention ideas.
Cold stress injuries may occur because a worker is working in some of the coldest temperatures, or it could be employees traveling to and from work in cold weather. Either way, if an employee is exposed to cold temperatures, the employer has a responsibility to keep him or her safe. If an injury is sustained when a prevention plan could have kept the employee safe, his or her employer may be held at fault.
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As you might know, I wrote a bestselling Bounce Back Ebook loaded up with resiliency psychology tools. Plus I founded the groundbreaking video course called The Anxiety Cure.
I’m committed to helping people to reduce stress – plus proactively prevent challenging times from happening in the first place! So I put together this article on preventing cold stress injuries at work.
What Are The Two Types Of Cold Weather-Related Injuries?
The types of cold weather-related injuries can be broken down into two categories, either freezing or non-freezing.
An example of a non-freezing injury…
- trench foot, otherwise known as immersion foot
This injury can be caused in temperatures as high as sixty-degree weather if the foot is constantly wet. Wet feet lose heat 25% faster than dry feet, which can lead to this type of injury. Frostbite and hypothermia are examples of freezing injuries, and these types of injuries occur in lower temperatures. These types of injuries do not have to become workplace injuries if employers take safety measures seriously.
What Do Employers Need To Keep In Mind For Workers Safety?
Whether the employee is working dangerous jobs or in a more ordinary setting, employers need to keep in mind the employee’s safety. If the employee works outside, then the employer has to consider a lot more environmental factors, not only relying on weather reports but also adding in the wind speeds as the higher the wind speeds the colder the temperature can feel. This can cause cold stress for those that work outdoors or workers that work in the transitory system. The employer should monitor how long each employee is exposed to these weather conditions, so they can help to limit the time spent exposed.
Who Is Affected By The Cold Weather?
Although all employees may be exposed to cold weather, the worker that is the most at risk for cold injuries are workers who primarily work outside. Workers should be trained in recognizing signs of cold stress and what makes up the proper cold-weather clothes. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 employers also need to:
- Monitor the worker’s physical condition to make sure it is not deteriorating.
- Schedule breaks for the warmest part of the day.
- Take as many short breaks in a warm, dry area to allow the body to warm up.
- Provide heaters when the workplace allows.
- Provide warm beverages like hot cocoa, tea, coffee etc
These are just some of the standard measures that an employer should take in preventing workplace accidents during the winter months.
Why It Is Important To Take Cold Weather Conditions Seriously
If cold weather conditions aren’t seriously then the worker may end up with frostbite which can cause permanent damage. Frostbite is caused when the skin and tissues freezes, in extreme cases amputation may be part of the necessary medical treatment. And frostbite can be recognized when reddened skin starts to develop gray or white patches in the extremities. If these signs are recognized, call for medical attention immediately and loosely wrap the affected areas until help arrives. If the employer does not provide the proper training, or adhere to the OSHA guidelines then cold weather can create unnecessary dangers for employees.
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