Winter weather is one of the most deadly environments to work in. Between slippery surfaces and biting winds, over 40% of weather-related deaths at work involve sleet, ice and snow. As a result, it can be crucial for employers to be aware of cold weather injuries so they can maximize their employees’ health and minimize their risk of serious injuries.
4 injuries workers are more likely to develop in cold weather
Cold weather comes with a specific set of risk factors and injuries. Freezing wind, dry air, snow, slippery floors and decreased visibility are just some examples of risk factors that can lead to serious on-site injuries. If your employers work outside in jobs like construction and railroad work, you should be aware of the following cold weather injuries:
- Hypothermia — Hypothermia is a cold-related illness that occurs when a person’s core temperature drops faster than their body can maintain it. Without early treatment, hypothermia can lead to serious issues like heart failure. Workers are more likely to develop hypothermia if they are wearing wet clothing. To reduce your employees’ risk of developing hypothermia and other cold weather injuries, try to reduce their cold weather exposure time by scheduling outdoor work during the warmest part of the day. You can also rotate staff during long, strenuous jobs outdoors. Be sure to provide warming huts or other places of shelter, as well.
- Chilblains — Chilblains, or the painful inflammation of blood vessels, occurs when a body part is repeatedly exposed to cold weather. Symptoms can include itching, swelling and burning, most often appearing in the hands or face. Employers should require their workers to wear proper weather gear at all times. Thick gloves and mitts can help trap heat and limit employees’ risk of developing chilblains in their hands.
- Immersion foot — Immersion foot, also known as trench foot, occurs when your feet get wet and don’t dry off properly. This can happen if snow gets into workers’ boots and their feet are submerged in melted water all day. While standing in the wet cold for a long period of time, employees’ feet can lose circulation and nerve function. To help prevent these complications, employers can make sure that their workers are wearing waterproof footwear and are properly changing their socks if they get wet while on the job.
- Fractures from slips, trips and falls — Slips, trips and falls account for 20% of all workplace injuries. The risk of these types of injuries increases when icy surfaces are involved. Snow can also hide hazards in the ground or on a building and increase workers’ risk of falling. You can require your workers to wear shoes with cleats, especially if they are working on ice or snow. You can also make sure that you clear as much snow and ice from walking surfaces as possible.
Work-Fit can help you prevent cold weather injuries at your workplace
On-site injuries can drastically increase during the cold weather. Work-Fit can help you prevent them from happening. Our team of experts offers injury prevention and wellness programs that can help prevent your workers from injury. Contact our team today for more information about our services or to learn how we can help keep your employees safe in the winter.