Anyone whose job requires them to work outdoors during Chicago's brutal winters knows that they have to take precautions to prevent illnesses and injuries caused by extreme cold. Employers are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act to keep workplaces, even when the outdoors in the workplace, as safe as possible for their employees.
Sadly, not all Chicago-area companies take the necessary steps to prevent their workers from suffering cold-induced injuries and illnesses. Even when these steps are taken, some workers may suffer them anyway as the result of sub-zero temperatures, the wind chill factor that makes the temperature seem even lower and wet conditions that can exacerbate the problem.
The most common ailments and injuries caused by exposure to cold include frostbite, hypothermia and trench foot. These can be serious -- leading to loss of extremities and even death. That's why it's important to recognize the symptoms in yourself and others early so that you or they can get out of the cold and seek proper treatment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers a Quick Card online that describes the symptoms and treatments for conditions that fall under the umbrella of "cold stress." It also describes risk factors and ways to prevent the conditions.
Chicago winters give rise to many emergency situations that require some people to brave the weather to rescue stranded motorists, help people who've been in accidents, plow snow, restore power and fight fires caused by space heaters and other unsafe attempts to keep warm. That's in addition to the usual day-to-day outdoor jobs of collecting garbage, dealing with crime and doing construction and repair work.
If you or someone you love have been injured or killed as the result of a cold-induced condition, you may not know whether it could have been prevented with proper precautions and/or protective gear. A Chicago personal injury attorney can evaluate your case and help you determine who can and should be held liable.
Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "Cold Stress Guide," accessed Dec. 30, 2015