The Bakken oil field is a difficult place to work in any season. However, the winter can bring cold temperatures severe enough to turn diesel fuel into a gel. Oil production usually continues in these conditions; though at a slower rate than in warmer months. These low temperatures, when combined with high winds, can induce injuries normally associated with mountaineering. These are frostbite and hypothermia:
When the body starts to cool down, it reacts by shivering and contracting the blood vessels in the outer extremities such as the limbs, hands, fingers, feet, toes, ears, nose, and cheeks. This consolidates the blood in the vital organs and slows down its rate of cooling. However, it also causes the outer extremities to cool off that much faster. Frostbite occurs when the skin and underlying tissues in these areas freeze. Severe frostbite cases may require amputation of the affected area. The loss of fingers, a hand or foot is life-altering and may prevent the victim from doing work that requires their use.
When the body's heat generation can't keep pace with heat loss, its temperature drops. Once it reaches 95 degrees Fahrenheit and less, hypothermia occurs. The victim will experience convulsive shivering, slurred speech, poor coordination, and will become confused or exhibit irrational behavior. As his core temperature continues to drop, shivering will cease, both breathing and blood flow will slow down until unconsciousness followed by death occurs.
Heat loss from the body is affected by several factors such as the external temperature, wind speed, amount of insulative clothing and its wetness. When low temperatures, high winds, lack of insulative clothing or wet clothing are combined together, hypothermia will happen rapidly. Hypothermia can occur even in mild temperatures if the other factors are sufficiently unfavorable.
If you start feeling cold and your activity level and clothing are insufficient to keep you warm, do something about it immediately. Attempting to "tough it out" will only allow your core temperature to drop until it affects your brain, at which point, you will be too confused to help yourself. Likewise, keep an eye on your work companions for signs of the above-described hypothermia symptoms. Get the hypothermic person to a warm area at the first signs and find medical help.
If you have suffered from cold-related injuries, and are having trouble getting the work comp benefits you need for recovery, the lawyers at Odegaard Braukmann Law will aggressively advocate your rights. To schedule a free consultation, please contact us.