In Connecticut, working outside during the winter comes with certain hazards. Workers are especially at a risk for developing cold stress, which occurs when skin temperature and internal temperature get so low that the body cannot warm itself. The three main types of cold stress include hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot.
The condition of hypothermia is where the body loses more heat than it can put out. It occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Of the three types of cold stress, hypothermia is the deadliest. Frostbite is when the body’s skin, and the tissue below it, become frozen. It often affects the fingers, toes, cheek, nose and ears. If left untreated, frostbite can cause permanent damage and even make amputation necessary. Trench foot is a skin condition caused by prolonged immersion in a wet and cold environment.
Despite the inherent dangers of outdoor winter work, cold stress is a preventable condition. Employers are advised to take steps to make sure their workers are properly dressed; insulated boots and layered clothing are recommended. Workers should also work in pairs and know how to identify cold stress symptoms, which can range from numbness to reddened skin and blisters to uncontrollable shivering. Taking frequent breaks is especially important. Lastly, employees should know when they should seek medical help.
If an employee is injured by cold stress, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Since medical costs can be extensive, the victim should hire an attorney to help ensure maximum compensation. In some cases, a lawyer may advise the victim to file an injury claim instead of a claim for workers’ compensation. Injury claims depend on proof of the employer’s negligence, which lawyers can gather with the help of investigators.