Working outdoors during frigid Illinois winters can cause considerable hazards for employees. Many Crystal Lake worker comp lawyers are familiar with people who have suffered severe injuries after exposure to very cold weather. By learning about the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia, outdoor employees can stay healthy throughout the winter season.
Who is at risk of cold injury?
Many outdoor workers are at risk of cold injury. Professions with the highest level of danger include construction, snow cleanup, baggage handling, landscaping, public transit and oil pipeline operations. The hazard of cold injury increases when workers are improperly dressed, exhausted from overwork or in poor physical condition due to health problems such as diabetes or excessive weight. People with impaired circulation are more prone to frostbite and hypothermia.
Symptoms of frostbite
Frostbite is a dangerous condition caused when skin surfaces or underlying tissues freeze during exposure to cold. If frostbite is allowed to progress, it can destroy tissue and require amputation. The most common signs of frostbite include the following:
- White or gray patches on the skin
- Loss of sensation in toes, fingers, earlobes or nose
When workers notice these signs, they must protect the damaged skin and move to a warm, dry location as soon as possible. Crystal Lake worker comp lawyers often hear of severe damage caused by untreated frostbite.
Symptoms of hypothermia
When a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia sets in. Immersion in water or exposure to wind can make this condition develop more quickly. Symptoms include loss of coordination, severe shivering, slurred speech, confusion and slowed heart rate. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, approximately 1,300 Americans die from hypothermia each year. 67 percent of the victims are male. Many of them were working in high-risk outdoor jobs that expose them to an increased danger of cold stress.
Best practices for avoiding cold injury
It is impossible to eliminate the danger of cold injury in freezing climates, but OSHA suggests a number of best practices to decrease risk during the winter months. Safety measures include more frequent rest breaks, proper training, sufficient protective equipment and gradual acclimatization to outdoor work in extreme temperatures. Many Crystal Lake worker comp lawyers have seen rates of frostbite and hypothermia decline after local implementation of these procedures.
Cold stress on the job can be a major health risk in Illinois. People who have suffered hypothermia or frostbite at work should consider speaking with an attorney.