Certain industries pose frequent risks to Michigan worker safety. Agriculture, landscaping, construction, forestry, and roadwork employ many people who spend a significant amount of time out doors where the weather can pose substantial risk. Emergency services personnel are especially prone to the dangers of outdoor work.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued warnings to workers in these fields to be especially mindful of the threat of cold stress. Cold stress is a mild but dangerous form of hypothermia. While cold stress isn’t life threatening in and of itself, when left untreated it can lead to frostbite and hypothermia, which is often deadly.
Cold stress is characterized by changes in the blood flow within the body as it struggles to maintain healthy body temperature. With prolonged exposure to hazardous conditions, the body will divert blood flow from the surface of the skin and the extremities to the core of the body in order to maintain function of vital internal organs. Skin becomes cool to the touch and fingers and toes become cold. Soon the hands and feet will become cold, too.
These symptoms will lead to frostbite if left untreated. If exposure to cold is continued long enough, the body will lose its ability to maintain a viable core temperature and death will follow once internal body temperature drops too low to sustain life.
OSHA warns of four risk factors that can trigger symptoms of cold stress even on a relatively warm day. These factors are cold air temperatures, wind, dampness and contact with cold water or chilly surfaces. Each factor alone presents an uncomfortable work environment but when combined they become dangerous. Wind chill is just such a danger. For example, on a 40-degree day with winds blowing at 35 mph, the wind chill factor is 11 degrees. That’s the temperature you body will feel and it will respond accordingly. When rain or wet clothing are added to the scenario, cold stress becomes a very real danger.
OSHA urges limited exposure to a cold, wet, windy environment and warns of increased risk to older workers, those suffering from high blood pressure, and those taking certain medications.
Last 10 posts by Amelia
- EEOC Updates Definition of ADA Disability - April 20th, 2011
- New Utah Immigration Law - April 15th, 2011
- Drunk Employees Not Protected by ADA - April 13th, 2011
- 18 States Consider Limits on Use of Credit Reports in Screening - March 30th, 2011
- California May Expand Employee Rights - March 18th, 2011
- New I-9 Handbook - March 4th, 2011
- Reporting Time Pay Varies By State - February 18th, 2011
- Inclement Weather and Payroll - February 9th, 2011
- Avoid Workplace Violence - February 4th, 2011
- Rhode Island Governor Repeals E-Verify - January 26th, 2011