Outdoor workers and the risk of frostbite

There are many occupations in Prince Georges and the surrounding area that require workers to perform their job outside. However, exposure to the elements can expose these workers to injury and one type of problem that exists in the winter months is the risk of frostbite.

The Mayo Clinic states that frostbite often occurs to the extremities of the body. This includes the following:

  • Toes
  • Fingers
  • Nose
  • Ears
  • Chin

Even a person’s cheek can become frostbitten if it is not properly covered against the winter temperatures. When a person suffers this condition, their skin and tissues have literally frozen. The lower the temperature and the longer the person is out in the environment, the more severe the damage that can occur. This can lead to damage of the nerves, bones, muscle and skin; as well as cause infection and death.

To protect workers from frostbite, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that employers should reduce the physical demands of a job as the extra exertion can cause the body to get colder faster. Additionally, workers should have access to warm liquids, be brought out of the environment if they show any signs of cold stress and be scheduled for outdoor tasks at a later time of the day when the temperatures are warmer.

Workers also need to be educated as to the risk that extreme cold poses to them. They should understand the importance of wearing loose clothing that will allow blood to circulate easier and multiple layers that insulate the body from the cold air. They should always wear protective clothing such as hats, lined gloves, a good thick jacket and waterproof boots with an insulated interior. Having blankets, extra clothes and hot liquid nearby is also recommended.

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