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Cold temperatures can threaten workers with hypothermia

Winter brings cold temperatures to parts of Missouri, and people in many occupations could experience symptoms of cold stress. Outdoor workers in industries such as construction and agriculture face the cold weather head on, but risks could affect indoor workers as well. People who labor in cold storage areas, wet conditions or in workplaces without heat could succumb to cold stress, which ultimately leads to hypothermia.

Dropping internal body temperatures reduce dexterity and sometimes cause slurred speech. Symptoms become severe when the body temperature falls to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. A person with a core temperature down to 78 degrees faces possible brain damage and death.

Employees and employers can take steps to prevent cold stress. Workers should aim to dress in at least three layers of clothing as well as wear hats. Wool, silk or synthetic fabrics insulate the body in cold and even wet conditions. People should make drinking plenty of water a priority to fend off dehydration. Employers need to provide protective gear and train workers about the risks of cold stress. Workplaces should avoid scheduling work during the coldest hours.

People who are experiencing cold stress on the job, which could include severe shivering, hypothermia or frostbite, might require medical attention. Most employees are entitled to file forworkers' compensation benefits when they are injured on the job or incur an occupational disease, but some employers make it difficult for them to do so. People who are in this type of a situation might want to meet with an attorney to learn more about what rights they have.

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