As temperatures cool and summer becomes autumn, you start to see green leaves turn fall colors. It won’t be long then until the leaves drop to the ground and another New Jersey winter comes roaring in.
The jobsite hazards faced by construction workers change, too, as summer inevitably becomes fall and as fall turns into winter. While we still have some more warm days ahead of us before the seasons change, employers should already be preparing for the extreme weather of winter and the potential for worker injuries in construction site accidents.
Regardless of the season, every day in the construction industry means that workers are exposed to hazards that can result in construction accidents and injuries, including:
- Heavy equipment
- Overhead electrical lines
- Falling debris
In summer, construction workers face the hazards of heat and its related illnesses: heat exhaustion, heat stress and heat stroke (a dangerous illness that can in extreme cases result in fatalities).
In winter months – especially January and February when the possibility of extreme cold is greatest – workers are exposed to low temperatures that can result in injuries such as frostbite, trench foot, chilblains or hypothermia.
Winter injury threats
- Chilblains: This painful inflammation of small blood vessels occurs when skin is repeatedly exposed to cold, nonfreezing weather.
- Frostbite: This condition can occur with exposure to freezing temperatures. There can be a loss of feeling in affected areas of skin and deeper tissues. Frostbite can result in permanent damage to tissue, and when it’s most severe, it can lead to amputation.
- Trench foot: This cold-related injury can occur when feet aren’t adequately protected from wet, cold weather. According to an article in OSHA’s Health & Safety Magazine, trench foot can occur because when your feet are cold, they lose heat faster than when your feet are dry. When your feet are cold and wet, your body tries to prevent heat loss by constricting blood vessels in your feet, which makes skin tissue begin to die.
- Hypothermia: Prolonged exposure to cold can cause your body’s internal temperature to drop and result in hypothermia – a dangerous condition that reduces brain function. That’s why a person suffering from hypothermia will often not recognize the danger of the condition and take steps to get warm.
These incidents are made even more dangerous
In addition to the listed cold-caused conditions, a certain type of common construction accident can become even more frequent and more dangerous: slips, trips and falls. These incidents are much more likely on surfaces made slippery by ice and snow.
Slips, trips and falls can result in less serious injuries such as bruises and abrasions, but can also result in more serious body damage, such as broken limbs, back injuries and head trauma.
No matter the weather, worksite construction injuries can require time off of work to heal, as well as medical treatments that can include surgeries, physical therapy and much more. Those who are denied New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits have the right to appeal.