Outdoor workers susceptible to frostbite

Unidentified workers removing first snow from pavementWinter can be a dangerous season for many workers in Illinois. A number of outdoor jobs continue during the coldest part of the year, placing employees at risk of frostbite and other cold-related injuries. An Illinois workers’ comp lawyer often sees cases in which outdoor workers are permanently harmed by severe frostbite. Learning more about the hazards of cold weather can help employees stay safe through the winter.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is a form of injury that occurs when areas of skin or underlying body tissues are allowed to freeze. It most often damages the extremities, but it can affect any part of the body. If frostbite is allowed to progress to a severe stage, it can be disabling or even lethal. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16,911 Americans died as a result of frostbite, hypothermia or other cold-related conditions during the period between 1999 and 2011.

Who is susceptible to frostbite?

People who live or work in cold environments are susceptible to frostbite. Many outdoor employees are in considerable danger because their employment requires them to spend considerable amounts of time outdoors without shelter or relief. Every Illinois workers’ comp lawyer is familiar with professions that carry an elevated risk of frostbite, including construction, forestry, snow removal, public transit and security.

What are the warning signs of frostbite?

Outdoor workers should be aware of the warning signs of frostbite. The most common symptoms are numbness, reddened skin, lack of flexibility, hard or leathery skin, white patches, grey patches or blisters. If the skin is blistered, the frostbite is severe and may require surgical treatment.

What should be done in case of frostbite?

If a worker or a supervisor suspects frostbite, it is crucial to take the following steps immediately:

  • Cover the affected area and protect it from further cold exposure.
  • Move the victim to a warm, sheltered area.
  • Do not rub the area or attempt to break blisters.
  • Do not try to warm the injury. If it refreezes, the damage may be even worse.
  • Give warm drinks to the victim. Do not give alcohol.
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

By observing all of these guidelines, outdoor workers can decrease the risk of permanent disability.

Compensation for cold-related injuries

If workers incur cold-related injuries on the job, they have the right to compensation for lost wages and medical expenses. Employees who have suffered frostbite may wish to consider speaking with a Illinois workers’ comp lawyer.