Employees working in cold conditions experience a higher risk of weather-related injury. While these risks may be part of the job, employers are not relieved of their responsibility to provide a safe environment and appropriate cold-weather safety training. When weather conditions are a contributing factor in a work injury, a workers compensation attorney may be able to determine if the employee is entitled to additional compensation for damages that resulted from employer negligence.
Risks Rise as the Temperature Drops
Cold Illinois winters bring an increased risk of work injury for those whose jobs require them to face the plummeting temperatures and associated weather conditions such as snow, sleet, and ice. In a recent reporting year, 42,480 work injuries across the nation were the result of slippery winter conditions.
Cold-weather injuries are not limited to slips and falls. Workers who spend prolonged periods in cold conditions may also experience:
- Hypothermia – Lowering of body temperature to potentially fatal levels
- Frostbite – Freezing of exposed skin
- Chillblains – Skin damage from exposure to temperatures just above freezing
- Trench Foot – Foot injuries resulting from wet conditions during cold weather
Cold stress also requires the body to work harder to maintain its core temperature, increasing the possibility of work-related injury or illness.
A Duty to Protect Employees
Employers must do more to protect workers than make them aware that their job requires working in cold weather. To comply with OSHA’s General Duty Clause requiring employers to provide a safe workplace, they must also:
- Assess cold weather job risks and injury frequency
- Raise employee awareness of the hazards of cold-weather jobs
- Provide cold weather job training
- Provide appropriate safety equipment, signage, and warnings
- Remove hazards such as ice and snow
They must also maintain records of all cold weather work injuries. Failure to do so may be an indication of employer negligence.
Employee’s Right to Compensation
Cold weather increases the risk of work injury, but unless an employer is negligent in the duty to provide a safe work environment, compensation for injuries is limited to amounts specified under workers’ compensation law. A workers compensation attorney may be able to determine if an employee injury resulted from employer negligence that may entitle the employee to additional compensation for injuries.