Most areas of Minnesota don’t see as many outdoor construction projects during the winter as the rest of the year. Frozen ground and other attributes of our brutal winters can wreak havoc on outdoor construction and send costs soaring.
However, for those projects that need to continue, workers who have to spend even short periods in the cold can risk suffering serious medical conditions if they (and their employers) don’t take appropriate precautions and safety measures.
Dangerous cold-related medical conditions
Several of the most common serious cold-related medical conditions include the following:
- Hypothermia: This occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can replace it and the internal temperature falls perilously low. Because it can affect brain function, a person may not realize they’re suffering from it.
- Frostbite: This occurs when skin is exposed to freezing temperatures. It and the tissue underneath can suffer permanent damage. In some cases, amputation of the affected area may be necessary.
- Trench foot: This generally occurs when someone steps or stands in cold water and it seeps into their footwear and socks. If a person remains in their wet shoes or boots and socks, the body will try to make up for the loss of heat. This can cause blood vessels to constrict and potentially result in gangrene.
Of course, falls are an even greater risk than usual during the winter because of ice and snow. So are accidents involving equipment and vehicles that have to maneuver on slick roads and surfaces.
It’s crucial for employers to do everything in their power to ensure their workers’ safety if they have to work outdoors or in unheated areas indoors. This includes making sure that they recognize the signs of medical conditions that can be caused by exposure to the cold – in themselves and others.
If you or a loved one is facing a work-related illness or injury, it’s crucial to seek workers’ compensation benefits to help with medical bills and other expenses. Workers’ comp is also intended to help people continue to support themselves and their family if they’re unable to work for a time.