A doctor at a Minnesota burn center says frostbite is more common than what most people think. The facility treated 90 patients for frostbite during last winter. He says that familiarity with the bitter cold of the Minnesota winters brings about complacency that could be dangerous. He says it is crucial to see frostbite as a burn injury that happens when a person's skin and the underlying tissues freeze, and it is a workplace injury that could occur quickly.
The best way for employers to prevent frostbite is to make sure workers remain aware of the danger and teach them how to prevent it. An employee whose skin is exposed to subzero temperatures can get frostbite within 30 minutes. At minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, with a bit of added wind or wetness, it could happen within 15 minutes. The consequences could be severe, ranging from the affected body parts always being more sensitive to low temperatures and life-long numbness in affected areas to amputation in the most severe cases.
Knowing the symptoms is crucial in preventing frostbite. Body parts typically affected include earlobes, cheeks, chin and nose, along with fingers and toes. It starts with a sensation of pins and needles and progresses to numbness and a loss of feeling. The skin will turn pale and appear to be blue or grayish, and it will feel rubbery and stiff. Any of these symptoms should send a worker inside to warmer conditions where the affected parts can be warmed.
In severe cases, medical treatment will be necessary, and workers need not be concerned about the high costs of treatment at a burn center because the Minnesota workers' compensation system will take care of it. The insurance program will pay the medical expenses related to any workplace injury along with a portion of lost wages caused by a temporary disability. Experienced legal counsel can assist with the administrative and legal proceedings of the claims process.