Cold stress: What Ohio workers need to know

Ohio winters can be rough, particularly for people who have to work outdoors. Construction may decline, but it seldom actually stops just because of the cold. Bitterly cold winds can make your job even worse. If you’re exposed to cold temperatures long enough, you may end up suffering a “cold stress” injury.

Here are three of the most common cold stress hazards that you may face and what causes them:

1. Trench foot

Even in relatively mild temperatures, trench foot can be a problem. When your feet get cold and wet inside your boots, your blood vessels constrict. This ultimately reduces the circulation to your skin, causing it to die off. Redness, numbness, swelling and blisters are common symptoms.

2. Hypothermia

When your body stops being able to maintain its normal temperature, hypothermia can set in. Most people notice the uncontrolled shivering during the early stages. That’s a sign that your body is struggling. Left untreated, symptoms can progress until you suffer confusion, difficulty speaking, problems with your heart, trouble breathing and fainting.

3. Frostbite

In extremely low temperatures, human tissue can freeze. Noses, fingers and toes are particularly vulnerable to damage from the cold. Symptoms include numbness and red skin that goes gray and hard or blisters. Frostbite is very serious and can lead to amputations.

You may not be able to avoid working in the cold, but you can take preventative measures to avoid cold injuries. Always wear the right gear, strip off wet clothes and shoes as quickly as possible and get inside where you can warm up if you sense a problem.

Cold stress injuries at work can leave you with crippling disabilities that permanently affect your life. Find out how you can hold your employer accountable.