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Staying safe while outside

West Virginia workers and others who work outside in the cold could suffer serious injuries from prolonged exposure to the elements. It may be possible to get frostbite or hypothermia from being outside for too long. As a general rule, a worker should spend 15 minutes indoors for every hour spent working outside. In addition to the actual air temperature, wind speed and moisture levels may also play a role in making outdoor work dangerous for an individual.

When temperatures drop to negative 20 degrees, exposed skin could freeze in as little as one minute if left exposed. However, if winds are gusting up to 20 miles per hour, exposed skin could freeze in one minute at temperatures of 10 degrees above zero. By dressing properly, workers can prevent exposed skin as well as limit the amount of moisture present on their bodies.

Clothing should be allowed to breathe, and workers should layer appropriately so that they can adjust to changing weather conditions. Liners under hard hats may prevent heat from escaping through the head, which may keep workers warmer while outdoors. Employers can help protect workers by scheduling projects during the warmest part of the day. They can also protect workers by providing shelter and warm drinks to help employees stay warm while out in the cold.

Those who suffer a work injury because they are asked to work in the cold may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. In fact, a worker may be entitled to benefits anytime he or she is injured because of a workplace accident. Such benefits may help to replace lost income as well as help pay for medical bills related to the injury. These benefits may be offered on a permanent basis for those unable to return to work.

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Stephen P. New, Attorney at Law
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Beckley, WV 25801

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