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Outdoor workers exposed to cold-weather injuries

Throughout the winter months, workers in North Carolina and across the country who do their jobs primarily outdoors may be at risk for several injuries related to low temperatures. Experts suggests tips for employers that can help keep their employees safe.

Even with temperatures as high as 60 degrees F, workers may be at risk for trench foot, which is characterized by redness, tingling, numbness, cramps, and blisters, and chilblains, which are caused by skin capillaries being damaged. Workers may also be at risk of hypothermia, which occurs when body temperature drops lower than 95 degrees F, and frostbite, which involves skin and tissue becoming frozen and can lead to permanent damage. Cold temperatures can also cause angina, or cardiac chest pains, as the heart does not receive enough oxygenated blood.

Employers can take many steps to keep their employees safe. According to the CEO of the Snow and Ice Management Association, for every hour an employee works, 15 minutes of it should be spent indoors. OSHA and NIOSH suggest that workers use a buddy system and monitor each other and that each employee should have an easy method of communication with supervisors. Employers should provide a warm, dry shelter, along with warm drinks, for employees, Work should be scheduled for warmer parts of the day, and employees should be encouraged to wear breathable layers, hats, hoods, and insulated, waterproof footwear.

If an employee finds themselves injured after working outdoors in low temperatures, they may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. A lawyer could help them to complete paperwork and complete the process to obtain compensation. If a cold-weather injury is caused by an employer's negligence, the injured employee may find it more beneficial to file a lawsuit.

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