Temperatures are dropping in Evansville, but you’ll still see faithful workers on highway construction sites and other outdoor projects through the winter. Especially with Indiana’s bitter winds, Evansville workers exposed to cold weather are at higher risk for injury from several causes.
Employers are required to provide training, monitoring, and some climate controls to workers who will face cold conditions for long periods of time. In addition, if you expect to work outside in the next few months, consider taking the following precautions to avoid injury and illness.
Evansville’s weather is far from consistent. A cool, dry day in December may be followed by a blizzard or freezing rainstorm, sometimes changing dramatically during daytime work hours. Being prepared for these conditions may reduce your risk of developing cold stress, illness, or injury. Depending on your job, you may want to wear the following:
- Loose-fitting, insulating layers
- A heavy jacket, durable gloves, and a warm hat
- Insulated and waterproof boots
Major risk factors for cold stress and injuries include exposed skin and wet clothes. Investing in durable, waterproof clothing can significantly reduce these risks and keep you safe on the job.
Know the Warning Signs
Three common cold-weather illnesses and injuries are frostbite, hypothermia, and trench foot. Watch out for your fellow workers if they exhibit any of the following symptoms, which could indicate the first stages of one of these conditions:
- Frostbite symptoms: exposed skin turns red with white or gray patches, and may become hard or blister.
- Hypothermia symptoms: person shivers at first then stops. More severe symptoms include confusion, slurred speech, slow heart rate and breathing, and loss of consciousness.
- Trench foot symptoms: feet may become red and numb or swell and blister.
If you or anyone on your jobsite complains about symptoms like these, notify your employer and call for medical help. In some cases, common sense treatments may make cold weather injuries worse, so it’s better to let trained professionals handle it.
Your employer should provide a warm, dry place for you to take breaks if you are expected to work in cold conditions. Take frequent, short breaks to keep your body temperature up and your clothes dry.
Watch for Ice
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that slips and falls accounted for 27 percent of workplace injuries in America in 2015, and nearly half of those were caused by ice, sleet, or snow (30,050 cases in 2015). The fall risk for workers everywhere increases during the wetter, icier winter months, especially those who spend extended amounts of time outside.
In addition to watching out for employees’ safety and health, your employer should also monitor the equipment being used outside. For example, they should provide appropriate ladders and secure scaffolding systems rated for outdoor use in extreme temperatures.
This doesn’t just apply to employers of outdoor workers. Even if you work inside an office building, someone is responsible for making sure the employee parking lot is properly salted in icy conditions. Any pathways or sidewalks used by employees or customers to enter the premises should be shoveled and safe to use.
Sometimes, your employer is responsible for maintaining sidewalks and parking lots. However, this responsibility may fall on a third party, such as the owner of your building or your local government. If you’re injured on your way into your workplace, an Evansville personal injury attorney can help you determine who should be held responsible.
Finally, take caution driving to and from work, no matter what your job is. Don’t worry about rushing to work on time if the roads are icy or a blizzard has slowed traffic to a crawl. The few minutes you spend being careful in transit are worth more than the injury you risk being hasty.
What to Do If You’re Injured in the Cold
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises workers to report dangerous working conditions before they cause harm. However, if you or a colleague begins to suffer from one of the three common cold-weather illnesses, you should do the following:
- Call 911 immediately
- Move the worker to a warm place
- Change out any wet clothes for dry ones
- Cover the person’s body — but not the face — with blankets or a tarp
- Give the worker warm, sweet drinks, like sports beverages, and high-calorie foods
Help from an Evansville Personal Injury Lawyer
You have the right to a safe, healthy workplace, even if you work in cold weather conditions. If you have been injured on the job, Hensley Legal Group can help. Call us today or contact us online for a free consultation.