Preventing Michigan Workers from Cold Weather Injuries
Here in Michigan, there can be several days each month when temperatures will drop to 10 degrees Fahrenheit or below, presenting a potentially hazardous time for outdoor workers. For those employed by (among others) construction companies, utility agencies, delivery services, police, fire and rescue departments, workers can spend significant time braving the freezing rain, snow, ice, wind and bitter cold. The Law Offices of Lee Steinberg thought it was a good time to remind these workers that their employer has a responsibility to ensure a workplace free from recognized cold-weather related hazards. Michigan employers should be taking precautions to prevent deadly slips and falls and avoiding any illnesses related to hypothermia, or even outbreaks during this year’s dangerous flu season.
Employers Should Take These Safety Precautions
While the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) does not have specific requirements for cold weather work, the organization does provide several suggestions on how employers can keep their workers protected from injury and sickness during the winter months.
- Keep all walkways cleared of ice and snow.
- Have de-icing products handy for hard-to-remove ice or snow.
- Make sure all walkways and passageways are clearly marked and well-lit.
- Require workers to wear slip-resistant footwear.
- Inform workers of safe practices for walking on slippery surfaces.
- Never allow workers to carry heavy loads that may offset balance.
- Clearly mark or barricade hazardous areas.
- Promote flu shots for employees, encourage proper hand-washing and respiratory hygiene practices and educate workers on the symptoms of the flu.
- Offer eyewear to lessen winter glare while driving.
- Know the symptoms of cold stresses and the first aid steps to address it.
Some employers may provide clothing for exposure to outdoor cold weather, but MIOSHA does not require them to do so. Winter coats, hats, gloves, and related cold weather equipment are not always considered personal protective equipment (PPE).
Cold Stress Remains a Top Concern
A big concern for Michigan workers who are exposed to the winter temperatures is staying warm. Cold stresses like hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot can present dangerous injury risks. Even the beginning stages of hypothermia, when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees, can give a worker the similar coordination of an intoxicated person. Workers should be trained on how to maintain their core body temperature by dressing in layers as well as be supported by employers who:
- Provide engineering controls (such as radiant heaters) to combat the cold.
- Schedule outdoor work during the warmest part of the day.
- Assign employees to work in pairs (if possible) and implement a means of communicating with workers in remote areas.
- Have supervisors monitor workers for signs of cold stress.
- Schedule breaks in warm areas.
Contact an Experienced Michigan Workplace Injury Lawyer
While workplace injuries can be common in the winter months, they can also cause serious injury or death, leaving victims and their families left with debilitating consequences. When caused by the negligence of an employer, it’s important to find support and understand worker rights and protections. The Law Offices of Lee Steinberg are the experts in workplace injuries. We have a team of experienced attorneys dedicated to helping you and your family. Please call Lee Free at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form.