More on Cold Weather Risks for Workers and How to Prevent or Treat Them

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2019 at 11:33 am    

Another danger for workers who work outside is trench foot. Trench foot is also known as immersion. Trench foot is due to lengthy exposure to cold temperatures and wet elements. Workers can develop trench foot even if temperatures are as much as 60 degrees F. The injury happens “because wet feet lose heat 25-times faster than dry feet.” According to OSHA’s stress guide, the danger is that the body, to prevent heat loss, will “constrict the blood vessels to shut down the circulation in the feet.” When the circulation is cut, skin tissue can die because the tissue doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs. There can also be a buildup of toxins.

Trench foot symptoms include swelling, numbness, blisters, and redness of the skin. If a worker develops trench foot, contact 911 immediately or get medical help immediately. The wet footwear and socks should be removed, and the feet should be dried.

OSHA recommendations for preventing cold stress

While OSHA does not have specific standards for how employers should handle cold weather, it does have recommendations. These recommendations include training workers on how to prevent cold stress injuries and illnesses. This includes what protective clothing and equipment should be worn outdoors. It includes creating policies for reducing risk such as monitoring temperatures and wet conditions and understanding when workers should come in from the cold. Proper “engineering controls” should be considered. This can include radiant heaters, and temporary facilities where workers can warm up. Equipment and devices can be purchased or crafted to reduce exposure to winds and drafts.

Some safe work practice policies that employers should consider when the weather gets cold include:

  • Preventing workers from becoming dehydrated. Fluids should be readily available. Workers should be encouraged to drink them. Warm sweet liquids generally help workers drink more liquids. Alcoholic beverages, however, should be avoided.
  • Heavy work should be scheduled for the sunnier warmer parts of the day.
  • Employees should use a buddy system (where employees work in pairs) so that each employee can monitor and help the other work.
  • If workers aren’t feeling well, they should be allowed to stop working and get hydrated or rest.
  • Employees should be allowed to take rest breaks, even when feeling well, on a more regular basis than in other weather conditions.
  • Workers who have been out of work due to a workplace injury or illness should be given plenty of time to acclimate themselves to work, in general, so they can build up their tolerance – before being given outdoor assignments.

Many factors contribute to workers feeling as warm as they need to be in cold weather. Proper dress for work factors include:

  • The fabric in the clothing. Cotton doesn’t have much insulation value if it becomes wet. Silk, wool, and many synthetics are better fabrics for protecting cold weather workers.
    • Workers should have at least three layers of clothing. The layers should be loose fitting. This combination helps to better insulate the worker. Tight fighting clothing is actually not as effective as many workers would think it should be. The three layers should consist of the following:
    • “An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to keep moisture away from the body.
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
    • An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.”
  • Workers should wear a hat or wear a coat with a hood. Head coverings are essential to reducing the amount of body heat that can escape.
  • Knit masks can protect the face. Some knit masks can even protect the mouth and lips.
  • Gloves should be insulated. Better gloves are also resistant to water.
  • Workers should wear boots that are insulated and waterproof boots. An extra pair of socks may help.

Additional safety tips for employees

Other steps that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends employers take include:

  • Constant monitoring of workers’ physical conditions in outdoor weather
  • Staying as dry as possible. It’s the combination of cold and wetness that can often be the most harmful – causing hypothermia, frostbite, and trench mouth. Wetness doesn’t just include external liquids. Excess sweating can be dangerous too. The sweat quickly turns cold in bad weather.
  • Workers should have extra clothing such as sweaters and warm underwear ready.

Other cold weather problems besides the cold and wet

Icy and Snowy Walkways and Parking Lots. Ice is an especially dangerous concern in several respects. Icy surfaces can make it much more likely that workers will slip and fall. We unfortunately have represented many injured workers in all kinds of occupations who are injured—typically when exiting or entering their place of employment.  Even a telecommuter may be entitled to make a claim if he or she slipped on snow or ice at home—provided he or she has begun engaging in employment-related activities for the day and was so engaged at the time of the fall.

Snow and ice make it easy for people to lose their footing. Workers who slip and fall can suffer broken bones, muscle and ligament damage, and other types of injuries that can prevent them from working for a long time, or in some cases, unable to return to work at all. We have seen numerous surgeries made necessary due to a slip and fall on ice.

A typical office environment—where ladies wear high heels and men wear dress shoes—combined with ice, is an absolute prescription for disaster. These types of footwear provide no traction whatsoever on icy surfaces and are likely to slide out and cause serious injury. If possible, particularly if there is a long trek from the parking lot to the entry of your place of employment—alternate, weather appropriate footwear should be worn, such as warm boots, like the Sorel brand, and you should carry your office shoes with you in a backpack or by other means. This will also prevent the shoes from being ruined by the harsh salt and other chemicals which are often used in an attempt to melt icy walkways.

Steps should be taken by the employer/landlord to remove ice and clean up snow and ice on company sidewalks and parking lots – as soon as possible after the weather has ceased precipitation.  

Icy Road Conditions. Many North Carolina and Virginia drivers have difficulty driving in the snow. It is not something we are used to. Icy road conditions make driving especially dangerous. Icy conditions can also make it hard for drivers to see. Windshield wipers may stop working completely if the ice builds up too much.

Employers should prepare for bad weather and should educate their workers and have a plan in place about what to do in the event the roads are deemed hazardous. Follow your local news and school and employer closings. If most of the larger employers are opting out of requiring their employees to come to work, that might be a good indication that the employer should advise your employees not to come in as well.

Workers who are injured while driving on the job can suffer a broad range of serious injuries or may even be killed. Moreover, workers should be aware of the “going and coming rule”. That is, you typically cannot claim any injury that you suffered while on the way to or from work as a workers comp injury.  

North Carolina and Virginia worker’s compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. has been helping injured workers get justice for more than 30 years.  He’s helped thousands of injured employees get compensation for their medical bills and lost wages. He helps all types of workers from construction and heavy industry workers to healthcare workers and officer workers. For help now, please phone me at 1-(888) 667-8295 or fill out my contact form.

Worker’s Compensation and Winter Safety

Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2019 at 4:45 pm    

Rear view of man holding shovel over his shoulder and preparing for shoveling snow.

North Carolina already had one significant snowfall during December of 2018 and early in 2018, southeast Virginia was struck by a crippling blizzard. Ice, snow, and cold weather can make it extremely difficult to work – especially for construction workers and anyone who works outside. Anyone who walks outside may slip and fall on the ice. Well-known dangers, although rare in our neck of the woods,  include hypothermia and frostbite.

Some examples of outdoor work include:

  • Construction work
  • Snow cleanup crews
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Sanitation workers
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Highway maintenance crews
  • Landscapers
  • HVAC Technicians
  • Utility Workers
  • Refuse and Recyclable Collectors
  • Surveyors

Cold weather can be relative. Some climates are known for their cold weather and people there understand what steps are needed to protect roads, pipes from bursting due to freezing, and most of all people. Other climates including southern climates often don’t understand how to respond to cold weather and the city crews with their meager supplies and equipment are quickly overwhelmed when extreme winter weather takes over. It is not their fault; it is simply such a rarity that it is not worth the expenditure to purchase the extra equipment.

The OSHA Cold Stress Guide

As with all worker’s compensation claims, there is no requirement to prove fault. If an accident at work causes the employee to be injured, the employee has a right to demand wage loss benefits and payment for the medical costs to get healthy again. The employer is generally liable even if it did everything it could to prevent the accident.

Employers and employees should both understand the risks of working in cold weather and to how to minimize those risks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does have some guidelines on what employers can do to help any worker who works outside in extreme cold or a combination of cold and wet weather.

Still, employers are required to comply with “hazard-specific safety and health standards.” Employers must also “provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Employers should also use standards that are commonplace in their industry.

Risk factors for cold stress

Cold weather includes more than just looking at the temperature. It also requires looking at how wind chill makes it feel colder.

In addition to wind, the following factors can make cold weather more difficult to manage, according to OSHA:

  • Wet and damp weather
  • Employee fatigue
  • Not being properly dressed for winter. Workers should wear layered clothing and have protection for their hands, fingers, feet, toes and face.
  • Workers who are in poor health or who have certain risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and hypothyroidism should stay inside.

Cold weather places stress on the body by shifting blood flow, over time, away from the extremities to the body’s internal organs, the chest, and the abdomen. This shift plus any exposure of the extremities increases the body’s risk for hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a dangerous condition which happens “when body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced.” Another factor is that the body’s temperature drops to below 95 degrees F instead of its normal temperature of 98.6 degrees F. Hypothermia normally occurs at very cold temperatures. It can, however, happen even at temperatures above 40 degrees F if other elements exist. These elements include exposure to rain, sweating, or being submersed in cold water such as falling into a lake or pond.

Hypothermia symptoms. Mild symptoms include shivering and stomping one’s feet to try to get the blood circulating. More serious conditions include a falling body temperature. The worker will stop shivering and may become confused and disoriented. He/she may show signs of losing coordination. Workers may not be able to stand. Their pupils become dilated. Their pulse and breathing slow. Workers with hypothermia may lose consciousness. In tragic cases, they may if they don’t get immediate help.

Treatment for hypothermia. Any worker, supervisor, or helper should call 911 or seek immediate medical help. Some of the many common steps OSHA recommends include:

  • Moving the worker to a dry, warm location
  • Taking off any wet clothes and putting on dry clothes.
  • Covering the whole body including the head and neck with blankets – and with “a vapor barrier.” The face should not be covered.
  • If medical help is over 30 minutes away, the worker should
    • Be given warm sweet drinks (but no alcoholic drinks) which can help raise the worker’s body temperature. If the person isn’t conscious, then he/she should not be given a drink.
    • Placing “warm bottles or hot packs in the armpits, the sides of the chest, and the groin. Call 911 for additional rewarming instructions.

If the worker isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, a call to 911 for emergency help should be made immediately. Additionally, OSHA recommends:

  • That the general instructions above, other than being given fluids, should be followed
  • The worker should be checked again for signs of breathing and for a pulse. The check should be for 60 seconds.
  • A 911 operator or emergency medical service worker should start chest compressions – or direct someone at the site on how to perform chest compressions. OSHA’s cold weather guidelines provide that “Chest compressions are recommended only if the patient will not receive medical care within 3 hours.”

 

The dangers of frostbite?

Frostbite occurs when the skin freezes and the tissue beneath the skin is affected. The lower the temperature, the greater the risk of frostbite. The hands and face are normally the parts of the body affected. In severe cases, amputation may be required.

Frostbite symptoms include red skin with gray and white patches. There’s numbness in the body part affected. There can be a feeling of hardness in the hand, foot, or body part. In severe cases, there may be blisters.

Treatment for frostbite. Generally, the treatments for hypothermia should also be used to treat frostbite. Additional treatment considerations include:

  • Do loosely cover the affected body part and try to protect that part.
  • Do give the worker warm sweetened drinks – if they are alert but not if they are unconscious. Don’t give the worker any alcohol.
  • Don’t do the following:
    • Don’t rub the frostbitten party of the body. This can cause more harm.
    • Don’t apply water or snow.
    • Don’t break the blisters
    • Don’t try to rewarm the frostbitten area yourself such as by placing the hand or foot in warm water. This can cause tissue damage. Instead, be sure to get medical help. Medical professionals should understand the right way to warm the affected part.

Attorney Joe Miller Esq. fights for injured workers in North Carolina and Virginia. He’s been helping workers get just recoveries for 30 years. Attorney Miller works with your doctors and independent doctors to fully understand your medical needs. To make an appointment, call 1-(888) 667-8295 or fill out my contact form.

Deposition Rules in North Carolina Worker Injury Cases

Posted on Friday, November 13th, 2015 at 2:00 pm    

North Carolina has many laws that govern depositions in worker’s compensation cases.  Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, the Commissioner of the North Carolina Industrial Commission can order the deposition of any witness including the claimant or the claimant’s doctor.

Section 97-80 of the act states that the Commission can order that testimony be taken on application of any party to the case. The application should state why the evidence is material, whether the witness is in North Carolina or outside of North Carolina and the costs involved. (more…)

Medical Non-Compliance

Posted on Monday, July 13th, 2015 at 2:35 pm    

In addition to using a nurse case manager and a vocational rehabilitation counselor to try to terminate your workers’ compensation benefits, there are other indirect tricks the insurance carrier for the employer will try.

(more…)

Quick Update: Contributory Negligence

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am    

This short video lets you know the dangers of contributory negligence and how it can affect your personal injury case, particularly in auto accidents.  If you’ve been hurt in an accident, don’t put yourself at risk for getting anything less than Strong Justice.  Call attorney Joe Miller, today, (888) 694-1671.

Lexus cars recalled for flammable risk

Posted on Monday, October 20th, 2014 at 4:21 pm    

A faulty gasket sealing in some older Lexus models that may lead to a fire-causing fuel leak has prompted Toyota to recall 423,000 cars in the U.S., USA Today reported on October 15.

The affected models are 2007-2010 LS Sedan, 2006-2011 GS Sedan, 2006-2011 IS Compact, 2010 IS C, and 2008-2010 IS-F. According to Toyota, fuel pipes in the engine compartment are coated with plating to avoid corrosion. The concern is that particles from the plating could transfer to the gasket, where there is a fuel pressure sensor. A weakened gasket sealing may result in fuel leakage within the hot engine, making the car prone to catching on fire.

Toyota is currently unaware of any accidents, injuries, and deaths associated with this issue.

If you have been hurt in an accident due to a motor vehicle defect in Norfolk, a lawyer at Joe Miller Law, Ltd., might be able to help you file a lawsuit against the manufacturer involved. To learn the possibility of such action, call us at (888) 694-1671 today.

Suspect escaped after police chase

Posted on Monday, October 13th, 2014 at 1:46 pm    

Police are still looking for a suspect who led a chase for authorities before hitting several vehicles and fleeing the scene, according to an October 5th report from WAVY News.

The suspect was reported to have been driving a silver Honda when an officer tried to pull him over initially for license plates that appeared to be altered. The suspect then hit the officer’s vehicle and raced away. The officer followed the suspect, but the suspect managed to elude him. Soon after, the silver Honda was found in a strip mall parking lot. It had collided with two other vehicles, a jet ski trailer, and a fence. Authorities continue to search for the hit and run perpetrator.

Being victimized in a car accident is extremely serious and can leave you with damage to your vehicle as well as your person. Fortunately, Norfolk residents might have options for recovering financial compensation if this happens to them. Talk with an experienced personal injury attorney at Joe Miller Law, Ltd., to learn more about your options.

Woman faces charges for violent altercation

Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014 at 2:20 pm    

The Register-Herald reported on October 2nd that Ashley C. Hopkins of Mercer County, aged 24, was arrested for charges of battery, destruction of property, assault, malicious wounding, and child neglect with risk of injury, when she allegedly used an ax handle to attack a man.

Bernard Allen Thomas III called 911 dispatch and claimed that Hopkins threatened to kill him and also that she damaged car windows. That officer was informed upon arrival that Hopkins allegedly used an ax to attack Thomas while he was en-route.

Three children were present, which accounts for the three charges of child neglect with risk for injury. Thomas suffered injuries to his head and arm, in addition to a potentially broken toe.

Bond is set for Hopkins at $75,000.

If someone has wrongly caused you or a loved one injury, then you might be able to fight for financial compensation. Contact the attorneys of Joe Miller Law, Ltd., in Norfolk to discuss your situation.

Hyundai to pay $17M over delayed vehicle recall

Posted on Friday, August 15th, 2014 at 2:28 pm    

According to a report by Tech Times on Friday, August 8, Korean automotive giant Hyundai has reached a $17.35 million settlement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over charges that the October 2013 recall of 2009 to 2012 Genesis units was not timely enough.

In 2012, Hyundai learned about the affected vehicles’ malfunctioning brake system which can easily corrode. The company failed to recall the units, and instead responded to the issue by releasing a Technical Service Bulletin instructing dealers to replace the brake fluid in the system. Hyundai started recalling the models in October 2013, after the NHTSA threatened an investigation.

As part of the settlement, the company has also agreed to put in place a more efficient process in identifying and reporting potential defects.

The failure to recall defective automobiles poses a great risk to consumers. If you believe the car accident you have been involved in was a result of a vehicle defect, our team of product liability attorneys at Joe Miller Law, Ltd. may be able to help you. Call our Norfolk office at (888) 694-1671 to learn more about your legal options.

Avon eyelash curlers recalled following reports of injury

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 at 2:22 pm    

Avon has announced it is recalling eyelash curlers due to potential breaks that might injure the users by exposing a metal pin, an online report stated Wednesday, May 14.

According to the report, Avon Products Inc. is recalling almost 520,000 eyelash curlers with model number F3093441 after the company received 24 reports of breaks, 13 of which involved harm to consumers. The company urges consumers to stop using the recalled product and contact them for a refund or a product alternative.

The recalled products were sold in the U.S. and in Canada from 2007 to 2014 for around $5.

The lawyers at Joe Miller Law, Ltd. believe Norfolk residents who have been injured by a defective product should explore their options in seeking justice and compensation through a legal claim. To learn more about your eligibility to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of a defective product, call us at 888-694-1671 today.