From slip and falls to freezing cold winds, construction professionals should be aware that the stakes are raised anytime they are working out in the winter elements. In this three-part article, the OSHA defense attorneys at Cotney Construction Law are offering tips to ensure your workplace maintains safety compliance and no workers become victims of cold-induced injuries or illnesses. In the first and second parts, we covered how to prepare for working at a frigid jobsite. In this final section, we will discuss detecting signs of a person that needs immediate medical attention.
5. Learn About Cold Stress
There are many health conditions that can develop if you are not cautious while working in cold weather. Cold stress is when the internal body temperature lowers to such a dangerous degree that the body can no longer warm itself. Cold stress conditions include hypothermia and frostbite. Here is some information on each of these dangerous conditions:
Hypothermia: According to WebMD.com, “Normal body temperature averages 98.6 degrees. With hypothermia, core temperature drops below 95 degrees. In severe hypothermia, core body temperature can drop to 82 degrees or lower.” This drastic drop in body temperature results in the inflicted person shivering uncontrollably before exhaustion sets in leading to slurred speech and a loss of coordination. If a worker is experiencing any of these symptoms, immediately seek medical attention. If medical attention isn’t available, remove any wet clothing and move them to a warmer location. If hypothermia isn’t treated immediately, it can result in a fatality.
Frostbite: When body tissue freezes, this is known as frostbite. Frostbite begins in the extremities like fingers, hands, toes, and feet. If workers are experiencing numbness and discoloration in their extremities, it’s important to seek medical attention. If medical attention is unavailable, you should try to gently warm the affected area, but only if you can make certain that the affected area will remain warm. In other words, you cannot reheat the affected area over and over again. Frostbite can severely damage blood vessels and lead to amputation.
6. Training Your Workers
It’s important that you learn about the symptoms of cold stress and that you educate your workforce on ways to prevent cold-induced injuries and illnesses. Whether it’s wearing layered clothing, staying dry, detecting symptoms of someone in danger, or making certain that all workers have another worker nearby to monitor their health and safety, workplaces that train and educate their workforce greatly reduce the chances of an injury occurring on the project site.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.