Cold Weather Injuries
As the weather in Washington turns colder, employers should be aware of the dangers the cold temperatures can have on their employees. Cold stress injuries occur when a person is exposed to extreme cold or have repeated exposure freezing or near freezing conditions. The following four conditions can occur if workers are not protected from the elements.
This condition occurs when a workers’ body temperature becomes unusually low, generally under 95 degree Fahrenheit. Some of the symptoms that tip an employer off may be that the employee cannot think clearly, lose consciousness, and in some cases if not treated quickly can be fatal.
If temperature’s get low enough or an employee is subjected to near freezing temps, for an extended time, the employee’s body parts can freeze. Tissue crystallize, which can cause permanent damage. Often fingers and toes are the first affected and if the damage is severe enough, entire limbs may need to be amputated.
When an employee’s feet are cold and wet for an extended time, blood circulation can be disrupted which often causes skin tissue to die. Trench foot, also known as immersion foot if not treated quickly can lead to gangrene and possible amputation.
Chilblains (CHILL-blayns) are the painful inflammation of small blood vessels in skin that occur in response to repeated exposure to cold but not freezing air. Also known as pernio, chilblains can cause itching, red patches, swelling and blistering to the hands and feet. Chilblains usually clear up within one to three weeks, especially if the weather gets warmer, but if left untreated may cause severe damage.
Often times, cold stress injuries are met with skepticism, but if not treated quickly can have devastating effects. Providing proper PPE, and an area that employees can “warm up” in, can prevent these conditions from occurring. If you have questions about your cold weather safety program please contact either Aspire at (253) 205-8150, or ABC at (425) 646-8000.
Greg Kabacy, MBA, CDMS Aspire Consulting LLC