Minnesota workers in cold, wet environments are liable to suffer from a condition known as cold stress, where the body grows so cold that it becomes unable to produce heat. The most well-known, as well as the most deadly, form of cold stress is hypothermia, but there are also frostbite and trench foot for outdoor workers to watch out for.
Hypothermia sets in once the body’s temperature drops to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and below. Once the body can no longer counteract the heat loss, the person will start to show symptoms ranging from numbness to shallow breathing to loss of balance. In the end, the condition could lead to loss of consciousness and death. It is the deadliest of the three conditions.
Frostbite is when certain susceptible parts of the body, such as the fingers, toes, cheeks, and ears, become frozen and numb. The skin becomes hard and changes to a white or grayish color. In serious cases, the affected areas may have to be amputated. Trench foot is an infection of the feet arising from wet and cold conditions. Employers who wish to keep their workers safe should make sure they wear proper clothing that protects them from the wind. Workers should also be educated on cold stress symptoms. Additionally, they’ll require frequent breaks in a warm place.
Cold stress injuries can fall under the category of workplace injuries and as such, most victims will be eligible to apply for workers’ compensation benefits that can include the provision of necessary medical care. An attorney can explain the process and what needs to be included in a claim.