How Employers Can Protect Employees Working Outdoors
Many workers must work outdoors in frigid weather. Firefighters, police officers, snow removal workers, garbage disposal workers, and power company employees are a few of the professions that require a lot of outside work—sometimes even more hours in a snow storm. They risk suffering frostbite, hypothermia, and trench foot, which is similar to frostbite and caused when a person’s feet are submerged in cold water for extended periods of time.
When serious, these injuries can cause permanent tissue and nerve damage or death. However, many of these cold weather injuries could be prevented if employers took steps to protect their workers.
Ways to Prevent Cold-Related Injuries
Employers have a duty to provide a reasonably safe work environment even when employees work outside. They can help workers avoid some of the cold-related injuries with these procedures recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
- Proper clothing. Employees should be required to wear several layers of clothing and need to be provided with an insulated coat, waterproof boots, hat, gloves, and a face mask. They should also have a complete set of dry clothes—including boots and a coat—in case they get wet while working outside.
- Monitor workers’ physical condition. When it's dangerously cold, a supervisor should monitor the physical condition of workers to ensure they get out of the weather into a warmer environment and remove wet clothes.
- Schedule frequent breaks. Employers need to insist upon and schedule frequent breaks for workers in a dry, warmer environment.
- Schedule work based on weather. When possible, schedule outside work in the warmest part of the day, or days when there's little wind chill or the weather is milder.
- Have workers join together. Employees should work in pairs in extreme weather so they can watch for signs that the other person is developing a cold-related injury.
- Train workers. Employers should educate workers on the dangers of working in cold weather; explain why the proper protective clothing is needed; detail the symptoms of cold weather injuries; and what emergency action to take if a co-worker develops one of these injuries.
Even if you or your employer takes all the necessary cold-weather precautions, you could still suffer a weather-related injury on the job. If this happens, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits while you're healing. Contact our office today to learn how Alan Morton can help you obtain the workers’ comp benefits you could deserve.