Hypothermia a Real Possibility for Workers During Cold Buffalo Winters

Feb 2013

It should come as no surprise to anyone that winters are cold in Buffalo, Rochester and the rest of upstate New York. Cold winter creates a lot of risks for people, but those in the greatest danger of being harmed by very cold temperatures are workers who spend the bulk of their day working outside in inclement weather. This includes people who work construction, who work in snow removal or tree trimming after storms, or any other worker who routinely spends large blocks of time outdoors.

It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers are safe and to provide a safe work environment. This includes making certain that workers are properly prepared for the cold and that they do not suffer from hypothermia. Our Buffalo, NY injury attorneys urge workers to pay careful attention to the OSHA information on cold stress and hypothermia and to heed the tips provided by OSHA in order to make sure that workers stay safe.

OSHA Information for Employers About Winter Safety

According to OSHA, there are a number of factors that can affect when a worker will develop hypothermia. The wind chill outside is one important factor, as is whether the worker is on medication, has certain health problems or is wearing damp clothing. Because so many things can affect when a worker develops hypothermia, it is important to realize that the problem is not limited to when it is below freezing outside.

Workers, therefore, must be properly trained to recognize signs of hypothermia any time they are performing outdoor work. Employers must be aware of the dangers that their workers face and take precautions. Some of the precautions that OSHA suggests include:

  • Advising workers of the signs of hypothermia. Signs include hardness of the skin, numbness and the skin becoming pale. The extremities, including the hands, feet, nose and ears, are most likely to develop hypothermia.
  • Ensuring that workers take frequent breaks to get warm. Hypothermia develops when the body is not able to warm itself back to a normal temperature. Prolonged exposure to freezing weather can cause serious and permanent injury or even death.
  • Provide warm beverages to workers. This can help them to maintain their body temperature as they are working outside in the cold. The beverages should not contain caffeine, so caffeinated coffees and teas should be avoided.
  • Try to schedule work for warm times. When possible, schedule outdoor work to occur on days that are above freezing. You should also always make a point to schedule outdoor work on the warmest part of the day.
  • Ensure that workers have proper clothing to keep warm. Layering can be very beneficial to workers in fighting off hypothermia.

These are just a few of the key tips that OSHA provides in order to help employers to make sure to keep their employees safe. During this long cold winter season, it is very important for all employers to protect their employees who are working outdoors and who are at risk.

If you’ve been injured in Buffalo or the surrounding area, contact the Law Offices of James Morris today at 800-477-9044.

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