Sauk Rapids residents do not need to be told that Minnesota's winters can become extremely cold. You feel this every day during the winter season, especially if you labor in a profession that involves a lot of work outdoors (such as the construction industry). With the winter fast approaching, it is important to know not only how to protect yourself from the cold, but also what obligations your employer has to do so, as well. Many come to us here at Lindberg Law, P.C. after having suffered an injury from exposure while at work thinking that they have no legal recourse. That may not be case.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have any set standards in place addressing cold weather working conditions. This does not mean, however, that your employer is allowed to leave you and your coworkers literally "out in the cold." Federal law requires that your employer protects you from recognized hazards; exposure to extreme cold may certainly fall into that category.
Exactly how can your employer protect you from the cold? Per OSHA's Cold Stress Guide, the first step would be to mandate proper cold weather attire, and to outfit worksites with engineering controls that help combat the effects of exposure. This may include providing warm beverages throughout the day, or maintaining areas with heaters for you and others to warm yourselves during breaks. Education should also be provided to you and your coworkers to recognize the signs of a cold stress injury in yourself and others. Such injuries may include:
- Frost bite
- Trench foot
Employers should also give heed to winter weather advisory warnings and avoid mandating that you work in dangerously wet and frigid conditions. More information on your employer's obligations to you can be found by browsing through our site.