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Beware of the hazards of winter if you are a construction worker

Construction company owners in and around the cities of Bridgeport, Waterbury and New Britain here in Connecticut will likely be preparing their workers for the hazards that come with the cold of winter. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have specific standards and regulations to keep outdoor workers safe, employers must protect employees from any known hazards. One such a known danger is exposure to temperatures that could cause serious physical damage or death.

If you work out in the cold, your body will use almost all of its energy to maintain the temperature of the internal body. However, keeping the core temperature warm jeopardizes the blood flow to extremities like the skin, arms, hands, legs and feet. If you stay out in the cold too long, you could suffer severe health problems that could even cause your death.

Precautions that could keep you safe

Exposure to cold weather can cause conditions like frostbite, trench foot and hypothermia. However, taking note of the following precautions might save you and your co-workers:

  • Check the weather forecast every day to prepare for dangerous environmental conditions.
  • Learn about cold weather dangers and know how to protect yourself.
  • Look out for telltale signs of cold stress in yourself and your co-workers.
  • Seek emergency care as soon as you notice severe shivering, erratic behavior or slurred speech.
  • Try to schedule outdoor jobs for the warmest hours of the day.
  • Take frequent breaks to warm your body and dry your clothes in a warm environment.
  • Wear clothing that you can adjust according to prevailing weather conditions.
  • Keep your body hydrated by drinking water or sports drinks rather than alcohol and caffeine.
  • Always work in pairs. The buddy system ensures that you and a co-worker can keep an eye on each other and call for help when necessary.

Dress wisely

Several layers of clothing, with a layer of thermal underwear against your skin, is the safest way to dress for working in cold environments. Multiple insulating layers of clothing that can keep your skin dry and a waterproof outer layer would keep you warmer than one single thick layer. Gloves or mittens are essential, but make sure they do not compromise your ability to work the controls of machinery.

Wearing suitable footwear is crucial. Make sure your feet remain warm and dry, even if you have to wear two pairs of socks. It might be wise to take extra socks to work to replace damp ones during the day.

Workers' compensation

Even with all these precautions, too many hours in a cold work environment might still harm your health. Make sure you get prompt medical care to avoid catastrophes such as amputations or worse. You should not have to stress about the medical bills and lost wages you incur because the Connecticut workers' compensation insurance system should help with those losses, and legal counsel is available to assist with the benefits claims process.

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