How Cold Stress Affects Maryland Heavy Equipment Operators
While many Maryland residents worry about bundling up when commuting in the winter, those whose jobs take them outdoors need to be concerned about cold during the work day. Employees may suffer from what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines as “cold stress,” which occurs when the skin temperature drops due to extreme cold and/or high wind speeds. Eventually, the person’s core temperature also falls, often causing serious medical conditions, tissue damage, and even death. Because construction, roadwork, and related projects do not stop in the winter, heavy equipment operators and other employees are at risk of cold stress.
There are measures employers can implement to avoid harm to workers, but extreme temperatures are still a problem. If you suffered injuries due to frigid weather, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. A Maryland workers’ comp attorney can explain eligibility rules for heavy equipment operator injuries, and some details on the implications of cold stress are useful.
Types of Injuries from Cold Stress
A combination of moisture, freezing temperatures, and high winds creates strain on the body, enabling heat to escape more freely. With prolonged exposure to these conditions, a heavy equipment operator could endure cold stress injuries such as:
- Frostbite: When the skin and body tissues literally freeze because of cold, the individual may suffer frostbite at the affected area. The tissues are killed off by the frigid conditions, possibly requiring amputation.
- Hypothermia: Extreme cold can cause the body to lose heat faster than the person can produce it. Being exposed for a lengthy period of time will eventually use up the body’s stored energy, leading to the state of hypothermia.
- Trench Foot: This condition may not be a huge risk for heavy equipment operators in a protected cab, but it can develop when feet are wet. Trench foot can cause pain, swelling, cramps, and blisters.
How Employers can Prevent Cold Stress
Under OSHA regulations, Maryland companies have a duty to protect employees from recognized hazards that could cause injuries, disability, or fatalities in the workplace. This obligation covers conditions that may lead to cold stress, and heavy equipment operators are covered. To protect employees, employers should:
- Train workers on how to recognize the weather and environmental factors that could lead to cold stress;
- Educate employees on the symptoms of cold stress and prevention measures;
- Ensure workers wear clothing and other gear that is appropriate for low temperatures, wind, and rain;
- Monitor physical conditions of all employees;
- Coordinate work schedules to the warmest part of the day;
- Allow employees plenty of breaks to warm up; and,
- Implement radiant heaters in work zones where appropriate.
Contact a Maryland Workers’ Comp Attorney About Heavy Equipment Operator Injuries
You could incur considerable medical bills and miss work because of cold stress, so it is important to take advantage of your options under workers’ comp laws. Our Maryland heavy equipment operator injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Steinhardt, Siskind and Lieberman, LLC can assist with the process, so please contact us to set up a no-cost case review today.