Common Cold-Weather Related Injuries

Author: Auger Law | November 27th, 2020

After another particularly brutal summer, a lot of us are looking forward to the winter months — especially those of us who work outside, considering the Carolinas’ sub-tropical temperatures and mild winters. Working under the hot summer sun, the dangers of heatstroke or dehydration is always a threat, and sometimes it seems like you spend as much time drinking water as you do working in the cold

But winter has its dangers for anyone who’ll be spending a lot of time in the elements. As with all things, forewarned is forearmed, and the best way to avoid winter-weather related risks is to know what you’re dealing with. 

No matter what work you’re doing, you deserve a safe working environment, and the attorneys at Auger & Auger are on your side if that comes up short. Our workers’ compensation lawyers and personal injury attorneys have extensive experience trying work-related injury cases and will bring that to your case. 

Call (800) 559-5741 or contact us online for a no-risk consultation today. We can review the details of your case and help you determine what sources of compensation might be available for your injury costs. 

Here are some winter-related dangers to be aware of and what you can do to avoid them.

Dangers Of Working Outside In The Winter

Your body is pretty adept when it comes to regulating its temperature — and it’s a good thing, too. Overexposure to the elements is among the most dangerous maladies someone can face. Broadly speaking, our bodies can function easily so long as our internal temperature remains between 95 degrees and 105 degrees, with 98.6 degrees the accepted normal temperature.

However, it’s important to remember that the temperature outside doesn’t necessarily determine a person’s body temperature, especially when it comes to hypothermia. In a nutshell, “hypothermia” is when the body loses heat and cannot replace it quickly enough. It doesn’t even need to be all that cold outside, as there have been numerous cases of hypothermia when the weather was fairly mild, up to 70 degrees.

The real danger from hypothermia comes in the form of “immersion hypothermia,” which happens when someone gets wet or immerses themselves in water. The body loses heat 25 times faster when wet. 

Relatedly, “trench foot” is a common danger for outside workers. This occurs when the feet get wet and stay at a temperature of 60 degrees, slowing circulation and causing skin tissue to die due to lack of oxygen. If your feet are constantly wet, trench foot can take effect in as quickly as three hours.

Another danger is frostbite, when a person’s extremities (fingers, toes, ears, eyes, etc.) freeze during cold weather, causing ice crystals to form between the cells. If mild and caught early, “frostnip” can be reversed, but deep frostbite often requires amputation. 

Chilblains are another danger of cold weather. They occur when groups of small blood vessels near the skin, called “capillary beds,” freeze over, causing redness and itching. The damage is often permanent.

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself

As quickly as cold weather-related dangers can become a problem, they’re generally easily avoided with a little foresight and common sense. 

Clothing is a fine example. Dress appropriately for the weather in clothes designed for the climate, and if your clothes get wet, get into something dry immediately. 

If any of the above maladies set it, it is important to get the victim in a warm, dry place as soon as possible. Use radiant heat — i.e. a radiator —  as opposed to direct heat, and do not submerge any afflicted appendages in warm or hot water, as this can shock tissues and lead to further damage.

Some other care tips for preventing cold weather injury include:

  • Stay hydrated — Like with heat stroke, imbalances in body temperature are often due to a lack of proper hydration. Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol, as it can lower body temperature.
  • Work in a “buddy system” — Far too many of the symptoms of a perilous drop in body temperature, especially hypothermia, may not be evident to the sufferer. Blue skin, slurred speech, fatigue, and, in advanced cases, a lack of shivering are all indications of a serious problem. Often, the victim will feel too warm and want to remove clothing. Another pair of eyes is of immense benefit to watching for these signs.
  • When warming back up, warm slowly. One issue with cold-weather dangers that is often overlooked is “cold stress.” The body tries to regain lost heat naturally. In a situation where someone is suffering from hypothermia, losing the heat regained puts a lot of stress on the body. Again, use radiant heat rather than expose the body to the stress of hot water immersion.
  • If at all possible, avoid intense labor. As odd as it may sound, you can work so hard that you’ll build up a sweat even in cold weather. When the sweat evaporates or is dried by a breeze, the body loses heat naturally. When wearing several layers, that sweat can impede the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. To put it simply, being wet in cold weather is never a good thing, regardless of how it happens.
  • Try to arrange the work schedule around the day’s temperature fluctuations. Try to schedule the most intense, outside labor for the warmer parts of the day.
  • If you or your co-worker is showing any symptoms of cold weather-related injuries, stop work immediately, and try to get to a warm place. Call 911 immediately. Hypothermia, frostbite, etc. can come on more quickly than most people think, and it’s difficult to warm back up once the core body temperature drops too low.
  • For more information, check out these guides from the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

After Losses From a Cold Weather Injury, Don’t Stay Out In The Cold. Give Us A Call.

Common sense and foresight are your best weapons for avoiding cold-weather related injuries. 

That being said, they can come on quicker than most would assume, and someone suffering from one of those injuries can be in bad trouble very quickly. Whatever work you’re doing in the Carolinas, employers, project managers, and group activity supervisors have a duty to not endanger anyone, especially when it can be avoided. In work situations, workers’ compensation might be owed, and in all situations, there might be legal recourse through a third-party liability insurance claim. 

If you’ve found yourself suffering from a cold weather-related injury due to some negligent party’s actions and think compensation might be due, call Auger & Auger as soon as possible. Our experience and resources can take your case as far as required to seek the compensation you need to get on with your life. Call us at (800) 559-5741 or contact us online today to set up a free, no-risk consultation.

Posted In: Safety Tips