Construction workers should always be on alert when working in the extreme cold. Whether you’re on a platform, on an exposed floor, or standing on a steel beam, falling temperatures can lead to brain damage or even death for workers during the winter months.

Workers Should Be Aware of These Common Cold Stress Symptoms

Cold stress occurs when a worker is exposed to cold or freezing temperatures for extended periods of time. If a worker hast lost a significant amount of body heat, his judgment will begin to fail, he may lose his grip, and eventually his brain will begin to shut down. When working on an outdoor construction site , check yourself and your fellow workers for these symptoms of cold stress:

  • Violent shivering
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion (difficulty finishing sentences, selecting the right tools, etc.)
  • Numbness in the hands, feet, or nose
  • Frostbite (reddened skin with white or gray patches)
  • Irregular breathing
  • Slow pulse or heartbeat
  • Tense or rigid muscles
  • Drowsiness or exhaustion
  • Slurred speech

If a worker has progressed into severe cold stress, he may stop shivering, lose consciousness, and exhibit weak vital signs. If this occurs, coworkers should:

  • Call for help. Alert a supervisor and call for medical assistance.
  • Find shelter. Move the victim indoors or into a warmer work area.
  • Get the worker dry. If the victim is wearing wet clothing, remove it and cover him with a blanket or jacket.
  • Warm the core. Always warm the center of a hypothermia victim’s body first, including the chest, head, neck, and groin. Use an electric blanket, heater, or similar means to warm the victim’s core.
  • Encourage recovery. If the victim regains consciousness, give him warm, sweet beverages (not alcoholic).
  • Take emergency action. If the victim’s pulse cannot be found, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

If you know someone who is working on a construction site this winter, send them a link to this article to keep them safe from cold stress, hypothermia, or frostbite at work.


Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer