As the winter season approaches, the demanding nature of working on an oil rig becomes even more apparent. The freezing temperatures and harsh conditions can impose severe risks on the health and safety of oil rig workers. Such cases invite the inevitability of cold-related injuries that may impair these workers’ ability to continue working.
The dangers of working in the winter
For many maritime workers, the cold winter months bring a unique set of challenges. Unlike those fortunate enough to work indoors, these workers often find themselves exposed to the elements on the deck, in the water or on offshore platforms. Cold temperatures not only increase the risk of cold stress-related injuries but can also worsen existing ones. Several factors contribute to these dangers, including:
- Low temperatures
- Improper protective equipment
- Working long shifts
- Handling heavy machinery
In addition, they may also face risks due to exposure to wind, waves and spray, which can accelerate heat loss from their bodies.
The effects of the cold season
Numerous forms of cold stress can affect a worker’s physical well-being significantly. As oil rig workers work long periods, they may not feel some sensations of cold stress immediately. But they can have serious effects if not addressed. Some effects of working on oil rigs during winter include:
- Hypothermia can cause confusion, drowsiness and loss of consciousness, impairing the worker’s ability to work effectively.
- Frostbite can damage the skin and tissues. This injury may lead to permanent numbness, gangrene or amputation.
- Trench foot can cause swelling, blisters and infections that could affect their mobility and comfort.
- Chilblains cause inflamed, swollen and blistered patches on the skin, leading to infections or ulcers upon scratching.
General ways to prevent cold stress injuries among workers include wearing at least three layers of protective clothing that can provide insulation to keep the body heat intact. Many could also prevent cold-related injuries by wearing appropriate accessories such as gloves, hats, boots and face masks to protect exposed skin.
The increased chance of cold stress is one of the reasons why oil rigs are more dangerous in the winter. If workers experience impairments or injuries, they may worry about their livelihood. However, they may seek reprieve under the Jones Act. This Act helps protect their rights and understand their options for compensation for lost wages after an injury.