People who work outside during the winter without the proper protection are at risk of getting cold stress. When the human body is unable to maintain the right temperatures, a variety of health problems can occur. These can include frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration, numbness and shivering. A variety of factors contribute to the risk of getting these conditions other than temperatures, including humidity, wind speed and contact with certain surfaces.
Some workers are at far more risk of developing cold stress than others. The most extreme risks are for those who work outdoors, like in farming or fishing, but indoor employees can also be affected. Buildings that use refrigeration like food processing plants and ice rinks can induce cold stress. The individuals most at risk for this condition include those who are physically unfit, ill, under the influence of drugs or working without the proper equipment.
There are several ways workers can protect themselves from cold stress. OSHA recommends wearing at least three layers: an inner layer to prevent moisture buildup, a middle layer to provide insulation, and an outer layer to protect from wind and rain. People who work in the cold should also wear a hat, drink plenty of fluids, consume warm foods and drinks, and have an extra set of dry clothes available.
Employees who are exposed to cold stress as the result of employer policies or action may be eligible for workers’ compensation. This might result in payment for lost wages, medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and pain and suffering. In some cases, the responsible employer may want to avoid legal action and agree to a settlement, but it’s possible they will want to go to court. A lawyer working for the victim may be able to obtain compensation for their client by representing them in court or filing an appeal.