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Construction workers can suffer catastrophic cold weather injuries

Construction workers face extreme hazards during every shift. From falling debris and scaffolding collapse to toxic exposure and shock injuries, workers in this occupation must be always on high alert. Unfortunately, environmental factors beyond their control can often create deadly workplace conditions.

Workers in occupations throughout New York are accustomed to the changing seasons. From the brutal heat of late summer to the frigid cold of winter, workers must prepare themselves to stay safe during dramatic weather changes. While heat-related illnesses might be more widely publicized, construction workers often face devastating cold-related conditions as well, including:

  • Trench foot: Construction workers performing job tasks in cold, wet conditions face an injury called trench foot. When the feet are left cold and damp for prolonged periods of time, workers face skin damage and gangrene.

  • Frostbite: When the skin is exposed to frigid temperatures for prolonged periods of time, workers face the possibility of developing frostbite. Typically affecting smaller exposed body parts such as the fingers, ears and nose, frostbite can lead to tissue death and eventual amputation.

  • Hypothermia: Facing extended exposure to frigid temperatures, workers could develop hypothermia. In the cold weather, the body loses its ability to regulate warmth which leads to a dramatic internal temperature drop. This condition can lead to cognitive impairment, exhaustion, tremors and loss of fine motor control.

Supervisors must provide construction workers the proper training, warnings and safety gear to counter the devastating impact of cold-related injuries. Additionally, managers must give proper breaks to allow workers to warm up, rest or change their damp clothing to stay safe. If dangerous conditions continue, workers can suffer catastrophic injuries.

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