Cold weather poses challenge for outdoor workers

Dave Hawkins

With a wind chill factor in the negative digits and the temperature hovering around eight degrees Tuesday, workers who are spending the day outside took precautions against frostbite.

Eyewitness News caught up with a Department of Public Works crew doing sewer work at Delaware and Vermont Streets in downtown Indianapolis. They have no choice but to be out in the elements. The crew says they're used to working in all kinds of weather, so they bundle up and take frequent breaks.

"It's hard to feel your fingers. I have to constantly - about every ten minutes - go up in the truck and grab new pairs of gloves," said Dave Hawkins, DPW worker.

Hawkins was prepared. He was dressed in three coats, two hoodies, a pair of coveralls and a Carhartt jacket.

Dr. Frank Messina at Wishard Hospital says while they haven't seen any severe frostbite cases, it's important to dress appropriately if you have to be outside.

"We see a lot of people who have symptoms related to the cold. We haven't seen anybody this morning with severe frostbite. That would be the real extreme end. People come in with mild hypothermia symptoms where they start shivering. Their hands might actually feel numb. They might actually feel tingly. Most of those can be treated at home so often we don't see those either, but we'll see the severe ones if they come in," he said.

Messina said it doesn't take long to feel the effects.

"People can get hypothermia in 20-30 minutes if they're not dressed appropriately, especially when it's this cold and if it's wet and if it's windy," he said.

Ronald Johnson, a doorman at the Downtown Marriott, spent his day in and out of the cold.

"It gets very cold, but I stay warm by running to the cars or even helping out our guests and I dress warm," Johnson said.

Cold stress - The CDC's guide to working in the cold, what to watch out for and how to treat it.