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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains that employees are entitled to a safe and hazard-free working environment. While many hazards can be completely eliminated, there are times when construction firms have to contend with unpredictable natural elements. Winter weather brings with it dangerous working conditions that can lead to severe injury and even death.

In this three-part article, an OSHA defense lawyer will be discussing the many dangers that frigid weather presents and the precautions that you can take to provide employees with a safe work environment year round.

The Dangers of Cold Stress

As described by OSHA, cold stress is a cold-related illness or injury that causes permanent tissue damage and can lead to death. Risk factors such as wet or improper clothing and poor health conditions can lead to cold stress. Examples of cold stress include immersion, frostbite, and hypothermia.

  • Immersion/Trench Foot: A foot injury that occurs when feet are exposed to cold and wet conditions for a prolonged period of time. Feet are particularly vulnerable to temperature loss, and this condition can occur in temperatures as high as 60 degrees. Symptoms include pain, swelling, blisters, cramps, numbness, and reddened skin.
  • Frostbite: The freezing of skin and tissue on certain parts of the body. In severe cases, this can lead to amputation. Frostbite causes blisters, reddened skin, and grey and white patches in the extremities, nose, and ears.
  • Hypothermia: An abnormally low body temperature. This condition can occur in even mild temperatures if a person becomes chilled, resulting in uncontrollable shivering. More severe symptoms are unconsciousness and death.

Emergency services should be called immediately if a worker falls prey to one of the above conditions. You should attempt to warm the victim while medical attention is in transit; however, do not attempt to rub or reheat frostbitten areas. Doing so could lead to permanent skin and tissue damage.

While OSHA doesn’t have specific regulations for cold weather working conditions, it is still an employers responsibility to ensure that their workers are kept safe. Failure to do so could lead to an OSHA inspection and a potentially hefty fine. To ensure that you remain OSHA compliant, please consult with an OSHA defense attorney.

If you’d like to read more about staying safe in winter conditions, please join us for parts two and three, where we will be discussing additional cold weather hazards and ways to prepare for them.  

If you would like to speak with an OSHA defense lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.