When winter weather comes to Pennsylvania, outdoor workers may face hazards that accompany sleet, snow, ice and freezing winds. While many people may be aware of the dangers of heat stress like dehydration or exhaustion, cold stress can also pose significant risks to the human body. Extremely low temperatures can reduce the body’s ability to warm itself, leading to a dropping core temperature and the dangerous potential of frostbite, numbness or hypothermia. While these can pose a threat in cold temperatures overall, the risk can be increased by damp air, contact with cold water or escalated wind speed.
When cold stress begins to impact workers, they may first begin to shiver. Many people ignore this symptom, dismissing it as the typical effects of cold temperatures rather than a serious risk of a workplace injury or illness. However, shivering may indicate that the body’s temperature is dropping below normal, causing blood to flow away from the fingers and toes. Exposed skin in these areas will cool even further, leaving them at risk of frostbite and hypothermia. As extreme cold advances, workers may suffer severe hypothermia, which can cause brain injuries or even death.
Some workers face a greater risk of injury due to cold weather. For example, employees in wet conditions may face particular danger. However, all workers in outdoor industries like fishing, construction and agriculture may deal with serious cold-related hazards on the job.
Injuries due to cold can be exacerbated when employers fail to uphold safety standards or refuse to provide personal protective equipment to workers. An employee who has been injured by a company’s negligence can work with a workers’ compensation lawyer to seek compensation for their damages, including lost wages and medical bills.