Working outdoors in the winter, especially in Minnesota, is a potentially life-threatening task. Most injuries and illnesses that arise in the winter are the result of the interplay between three things: Air temperature, wind, and the moisture from snow, ice or perspiration. It is moisture that both employers and employees should watch out for.
Experts from NIOSH state that wind and perspiration on the skin can cause the body to lose heat. This is why dressing properly is the critical first step. Workers should layer their clothing without making it too tight or difficult to put on personal protective equipment. Hats, hoods, and insulated, waterproof boots and gloves are also a must.
Employers must do their part in protecting employers. NIOSH and OSHA both recommend that companies schedule work for the warmest time of the day, when possible; tell workers to partner up so that each can monitor the other; and set up warm, dry shelters for breaks. In severe winter weather, taking a 15-minute break every hour is advisable. Workers should have blankets, first-aid kits, and a thermos with a hot beverage. Beverages should not include caffeine or alcohol
Companies should also train employees on how to detect symptoms of cold stress. They should also be knowledgeable about common conditions like frostbite, hypothermia, trench foot, and chilblains. Heart disease rates also increase during the winter.
If an employee working outdoors in the winter suffers a heart attack or some other medical condition, he or she will want to find out if it could have been avoided. If the employer was clearly negligent, for example by failing to train workers, then the victim may have a valid injury claim. This is where a lawyer can come in who specializes in workplace injuries. The lawyer could hire investigators to gather proof of negligence before negotiating for a settlement or litigating.