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Preparing outdoor workers for winter weather

Employers in California should know that even when the winter is mild, it takes more than a simple reminder about wearing gloves and hats to keep outdoor workers safe. Before winter even arrives, workers should be prepared and have the right mindset. Employees differ from each other in stamina, nutritional needs and physical needs, and these must be taken into account.

Preparing mentally comes first. Workers can determine the warning signs that they are suffering from cold stress, the effects of that cold stress on their body and their physical limitations. Safety training in the fall could help them in this. The pace of acclimation will differ because what one worker finds tolerable can be uncomfortable for another. Usually, those who are used to cold weather acclimate faster.

Hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-related injuries will affect outdoor workers in different ways, but with the buddy system, a co-worker may be able to recognize a condition when the one suffering it cannot. Such injuries are characterized by slurred speech, confusion, shivering and other signs. The older workers are, the less likely they are to notice that they're cold.

The training program can also take nutrition into account. The food that outdoor workers eat should be high in protein and combined with fats and carbohydrates. Workers must also stay hydrated to avoid fatigue.

Even when employers do all they can to prepare workers for unsafe working conditions, accidents can happen. In such cases, the victim may file for workers' compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and a portion of the wages lost during the physical recovery. If applicable, the victim might be covered for short- or long-term disability leave. A lawyer may prepare an appeal if the claim is denied.

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