You are entitled to a generally safe work environment, as enshrined by OSHA and other similar laws. This means that your employer must take reasonable steps to ensure your safety and to address danger areas. Usually this means providing safety goggles and putting up warning signs. But, during the winter this can become more involved. Working outside in the winter is dangerous, everyone knows that. The CDC has released guidelines addressing the more common winter-based injuries and illnesses and how to address them. This article is going to go over a few of the dangers, how you can minimize them and how your employer can help.
No discussion about the dangers of working in the cold would be complete without starting with hypothermia. Hypothermia is an illness with which many people may be familiar, but few recognize its cause and proper treatment. Hypothermia is caused because heat leaves your body faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure outside can result in hypothermia because your body is drawing down on its energy reserves and is unable to stay warm. Water conducts heat away from the body faster than air, which is why people develop hypothermia more quickly in water.
Hypothermia is very common for workers that are constantly outside. You will want to stay covered in insulated clothing. The common symptoms are: confusion or disorientation, dilated pupils, loss of consciousness, blue or waxy appearing skin and fatigue. Hypothermia is dangerous because it inhibits brain function, so you may not even recognize you are experiencing it.
If you notice these symptoms in a friend or co-worker you need to immediately alert a supervisor and get them inside a warm room. Warm their torso with either an electric blanket or with your own body. You may also give them a warm drink but no alcohol. Someone should also call for medical assistance; hypothermia can wreak damage that is not easily seen.
If you suffered hypothermia while on the job, then you may want to speak to a lawyer. You may have a valid employment claim if your employer did not take safety precautions. Hypothermia is a serious injury that can cause long-term harm throughout the body. Take the proper precautions and stay safe this winter.