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Work injury: Cold stress can be deadly

Heading toward January, which is typically the coldest month in Illinois, employers must review their safety protocols and arrange safety training to ensure employees know the risks of cold stress. The effects of cold stress cause many a work injury. Workers must learn about the different types of cold stress and the red flags to look out for in themselves and co-workers.

Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that starts when the body temperature drops to 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. At first, the worker will begin shivering but remain alert. However, when the shivering stops and the worker becomes confused and has slurred speech, his or her condition can deteriorate quickly. A slowing heart and breathing rate can lead to loss of consciousness and death.

Frostbite can lead to amputation. It happens when body tissue freezes, and hands, feet, nose and ears are most vulnerable. Symptoms include reddened skin, numbness and blistering. Many outdoor workers suffer trench foot, which does not involve freezing but constant wetness of the feet in cold environments. Trench foot can even develop in temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the symptoms are the same as those for frostbite.

Workers with cold stress need to get prompt medical treatment. Like any other work injury, the Illinois workers' compensation system will cover the medical expenses. If workdays were lost, a wage replacement package might form a part of the benefits. Many workplace injury victims choose to seek the support and guidance of an experienced Illinois workers' compensation attorney to assist with the navigation of the benefits claims process.

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