Cold Stress and Frostbite are workplace hazards that are avoidable according to OSHA. While OSHA doesn’t have a specific set of guidelines or standards that covers working in cold environments, they do believe that the employers have a duty to protect their employees.
Cold Stress and its effects are different depending on which region of the country you live in. Employees in areas that don’t usually have winter weather are especially susceptible and may not understand that an outside temperature of 40°F with wind speeds of 35 mph are really experiencing a wind chill temperature of 28°F. Cold stress occurs by driving the skin temperature down and eventually the core body temperature. This along with a wet environment, improper clothing, hypertension, diabetes, or predisposing health conditions could lead to further health problems, hypothermia, frostbite (tissue damage) or even death.
While OSHA doesn’t have a specific set of standards the following precautions are recommended:
Employers should train workers on how to recognize and prevent cold stress illnesses and injuries and how to apply first aid treatment. Workers should be trained on the appropriate engineering controls, personal protective equipment and work practices to reduce the risk of cold stress.
Employers should provide engineering controls. For example, radiant heaters may be used to warm workers in outdoor security stations. If possible, shield work areas from drafts or wind to reduce wind chill.
Employers should use safe work practices. For example, it is easy to become dehydrated in cold weather. Employers therefore, can provide plenty of warm sweetened liquids to workers. Avoid alcoholic drinks. If possible, employers can schedule heavy work during the warmer part of the day. Employers can assign workers to tasks in pairs (buddy system), so that they can monitor each other for signs of cold stress. Workers can be allowed to interrupt their work, if they are extremely uncomfortable. Employers should give workers frequent breaks in warm areas. Acclimatize new workers and those returning after time away from work, by gradually increasing their workload, and allowing more frequent breaks in warm areas, as they build up a tolerance for working in the cold environment. Safety measures, such as these, should be incorporated into the relevant health and safety plan for the workplace.
If you or a loved one has been injured at work and believe it’s due to employer negligence/liability, give your Lake Charles attorney N. Craig Richardson a call. His team of lawyers are prepared to help you take legal action that is intended to recover compensation for your pain and suffering.