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Outdoor Workers Exposed To Extremely Cold Temps

It might be cold outside, but that doesn’t mean construction workers building the new $84 million Bucks County justice center get a day off. In fact, there are thousands of workers throughout the state who perform their job duties outdoors in rain, snow or sunshine.

A reporter from the Bucks County Courier Times was at the site of the new justice center late last month, interviewing the workers, who were bundled up in multiple layers of wool and cotton to face the 19 degree weather. The workers told the reporter that there’s really nothing to do to shield off the cold during the winter other than dressing appropriately.

Even then, below freezing weather can be a real pain. On the day of the interview, a worker said the air was too cold to even lay concrete despite the fact that county commissioners recently approved a $81,882 budget for winter concrete, temporary heaters and enclosures for the workers on the project.

The cold weather can also be a pain for the workers, literally. Those interviewed by the reporter said they try to put the temperature out of their minds, but it’s hard to do when standing on cold steel. The workers said they just try to keep moving so that their blood keeps circulating and warms their bodies.

But employees need to keep in mind that there is such thing as being too cold on the job. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory last month, warning outdoor workers to be watchful for symptoms of frostbite, hypothermia, chilblains and what’s known as “cold stress.”

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration says workers who cannot avoid being outside in the frigid temps should wear loose-fitting clothing as it allows better blood circulation. OSHA also recommends that outdoor workers wear hats, which can help trap body heat.

If outside workers do fall victim to frostbite, hypothermia, chilblains or cold stress, it is likely that they would qualify for workers’ compensation benefits to help cover medical expenses, lost wages or other related costs. Although, applying for workers’ compensation can be a daunting task for those unfamiliar with the system.

Source: Bucks County Courier Times, “Working 9 to 5 in 19 degree weather,” James McGinnis, Jan. 28, 2013