Working outdoors is a constant series of ups and downs. You have to protect yourself from suffering a sunburn and heat exposure in the summer, fight off allergies in the spring and fall—and now that winter is here, you have to bundle up to protect yourself from suffering from cold exposure.
Cold-related injuries can begin with confusion and irritability but can soon progress into frostbite and even hypothermia if a worker does not take proper precautions—and in some cases, workers may not survive their exposure to the cold.
What Is Frostbite?
Frostbite is the common term for the freezing of bodily tissues. While any body part that is exposed to freezing temperatures can become frostbitten, the most likely areas to be affected are fingers, noses, ears, lips and other body parts that are not properly covered. The most common signs of frostbite include:
- Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations on the skin
- Paleness or redness on the affected body part
- Extreme pain
- Pale or blood-filled blisters on the skin
Poor circulation can increase the risk and severity of frostbite injury, making smokers, drinkers, and workers over 60 years old most likely to suffer permanent effects. While superficial cases of cold exposure involve slowly rewarming the frostbitten body parts, severe injuries may require surgery to remove dead tissue that cannot be saved.
How to Prevent Frostbite Injuries at Work
As medical treatments are not always effective at repairing a frostbite injury, a worker’s best defense against frostbite is prevention. If a worker is going to be exposed to freezing temperatures, his employer should warn him of the dangers of cold exposure and ensure that the worker is dressed appropriately for the weather before beginning work. Proper gear should include hats, gloves, face masks, lined waterproof boots and several layers of clothing. Employers should also provide warming stations for workers who will be outside for hours at a time and ensure that all employees take regular breaks to warm up.
If you suffered frostbite on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation for the costs of your injury. Fill out the short contact form on this page so we can help you with your case, or read through a FREE copy of our book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers’ Comp Guide.