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Protecting construction workers from cold weather

There is little doubt that part of what attracts people to work in the construction industry in Clinton is the opportunity to avoid the confines of the office and work outdoors. Yet when winter arrives, that benefit can quickly become a hardship, as cold temperatures and winter weather can both delay work and put employees at risk of injuries due to exposure.

The common school of thought may be that the only injuries or illnesses that one may face from exposure to cold weather are frostbite and colds or pneumonia. Yet according to, winter weather exposure can also produce the following:

  • Hypothermia: An abnormally low body temperature
  • Trench foot: Tissue loss in the feet due to slowed circulation to the extremities
  • Chilblains: Damaged capillary beds (small blood vessels in the skin)

Any of these conditions can result in everything from minor injuries to life-threatening conditions. In any case, they typically will cause one to accrue medical expenses and miss out on income due to time away from work.

The responsibility falls to employers in the construction industry to protect their workers from cold weather exposure. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, that starts with training workers to recognize the signs and symptoms of exposure-related conditions in both themselves and their coworkers, as well as how to render and seek aid when they arise. Employers should also provide engineering controls to make worksites safer during the winter, such as providing rest areas warmed by heathers, protective clothing, and ice melt or other de-icing materials to melt ice and snow on work surfaces. Finally, employers should implement safety measures to limit employee exposure to the cold when possible, such as having protocols in place to suspend work when the weather becomes potentially hazardous.

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