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Construction workers at risk for injury during cold weather

March 23, 2016

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Winter months pose additional hazards for Pennsylvania construction workers exposed to freezing temperatures

Construction workers face many work-related hazards that can cause injuries. Winter months in Philadelphia bring extremely cold temperatures, along with snow and ice, to add to the dangers normally associated with outdoor construction work.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, working in extremely cold conditions can lead to any number of health emergencies and serious health issues. Construction workers who endure freezing conditions are susceptible to cold stress. The CDC defines cold stress as health problems brought about by exposure to freezing temperatures and low wind child factors.

Common ailments affecting Pennsylvania construction workers include:

  • Chilblain: Repeat exposure of the skin to near- freezing or sub-freezing conditions can cause damage to groups of blood vessels in the skin known as capillary beds. Symptoms include red and itching skin with possible blistering. The damage to the skin is permanent, which means symptoms will return with future exposures to cold temperatures.
  • Trench Foot: This is also referred to as immersion foot because it is caused by exposure to a combination of wet and cold conditions. Wet feet can lose heat as much as 25 times faster than would occur with feet that are kept dry. The rapid loss of warmth causes blood vessels to constrict. The loss of blood circulation results in skin dying. Symptoms include reddened skin, numbness and tingling pain. It can also be accompanied by swelling and, in extreme cases, gangrene.
  • Hypothermia: As your body is exposed to freezing temperatures, the loss of heat occurs faster than the body is capable of producing it, causing an abnormal drop in body temperature. The result can affect the ability of the brain to function which can cause you to lose the ability to think clearly and can also affect your coordination. Symptoms may also include uncontrollable shivering, confusion and disorientation.
  • Frostbite: Parts of the body exposed to freezing temperatures can be permanently damaged. Frostbite usually affects the fingers and toes, but it may also cause damage to your cheeks, nose and ears. Symptoms usually begin with changes of the skin color and a loss of feeling. If left untreated, frostbite can result in amputation of the areas affected.

Construction workers can protect themselves from the cold weather injuries by taking a few simple precautions:

  • Make use of portable heaters whenever possible
  • Wear clothing that does not leave areas of the body exposed to the cold
  • Take frequent breaks in heated areas
  • Consume warm drinks throughout the day

You should team up with another worker to look after each other while working during extreme weather conditions. This buddy system will allow you to alert each other to symptoms of cold stress injuries before they become too severe.

The premier Pennsylvania construction injury attorneys at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim fight for just compensation if you have been the victim of a cold-weather related injury on the job. Contact our office to schedule a free initial consultation to learn more about your rights and the process necessary for filing a claim. Call us anytime at (215) 486-0123 to schedule an appointment, or you can use our convenient contact form on our website.


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