Along with the freezing weather this winter, comes the hazards of cold stress for outdoor workers in Illinois and across the Midwest. Low temperatures and strong winds cause many workplace injuries and related workers’ compensation claims each year. Safety authorities say employees must receive training in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of cold stress in themselves and their co-workers.
Although hypothermia and other cold-related conditions can be deadly, timely medical intervention can limit severe consequences. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides safety guidelines to prevent cold stress, one of which is the buddy system that leaves no outdoor worker alone. Each worker has a designated buddy, and they watch each other for telltale signs of the onset of cold stress and take appropriate action as soon as a red flag is noticed.
Along with wearing layers of clothing to keep moisture away from the body, face protectors can provide some relief. However, workers must look out for buddies becoming clumsy and confused, with slurred speech, uncontrolled shivering and signs of fatigue. If emergency help is called upon the first signs of cold stress, serious conditions like frostbite, trench foot and hypothermia can be prevented.
Unfortunately, not all employers provide the necessary cold-related safety training, and as in the past, there will likely be some cold stress victims in Illinois again this winter. Sometimes, workers find the workers’ comp benefits claims process challenging, particularly if employees seek to reject the claims. Fortunately, help is available from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can provide the necessary support and guidance throughout the benefits claims process.