Winter Weather Poses Hypothermia Risk To Offshore Workers
Maritime work can be quite dangerous, especially during winter months. Cold weather puts maritime workers at risk for injuries caused by hypothermia and other cold stress-related physical conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states hypothermia is particularly dangerous because a person may not know they are experiencing hypothermia and will not be able to do anything about it.
What causes hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a serious medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat at a faster rate than it can produce it which causes a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is about 98.6 F; Hypothermia symptoms will start occurring as your body temperature falls below 95 F.
Immersion in cold water and exposure to cold weather are two of the biggest causes of hypothermia for maritime workers. Immersion in cold water is especially dangerous because body heat is lost 25-times faster in cold water than in cold air. Unconsciousness or even death can happen in as little as 15 minutes when someone is immersed in cold water.
Initial symptoms of hypothermia:
Mild contraction of the blood vessels
Increased urine production
Numbness in the hands
Symptoms the body is continuing to lose heat:
Lack of coordination
Slow and labored movements
Lips, ears, fingers, and toes may become blue.
Skin becomes pale as surface blood vessels contract further as body focuses on keeping vital organs warm.
Symptoms of severe hypothermia:
Inability to move
Pulse and respiration decrease
Symptoms of the final stages of hypothermia:
Paradoxical undressing (sensation of increased body temperature that causes patient to remove clothes)
(desire to enter small, enclosed spaces)
What to do when someone shows symptoms of hypothermia
When treating hypothermia, the objective is to prevent further heat loss and gain warmth. Every possible effort should be made to contact an emergency response team.
Get indoors as quickly as possible. Remove wet clothing, dry off and put something dry on. If conscious, give them something warm to drink like soup. Warmth needs to be restored slowly starting with the torso because warming the extremities first could cause shock. Warm the person up by wrapping them in blankets. It is highly important that you do not immerse the person in warm water which may result in a heart arrhythmia. Monitor the person’s breathing closely. Begin administering CPR immediately if the person is not breathing.
How offshore workers can prevent hypothermia
Always wear proper clothing for cold and wet conditions.
If you are working in extreme cold, take frequent short breaks in a warm dry place to allow your body to warm up.
Huddle together with others in the water.
Avoid exhaustion or fatigue.
Do not remove your clothing while you are in the water.
Hold your knees to your chest to protect the trunk of your body in order to minimize heat loss.
The best way for maritime workers to avoid hypothermia is with proper training and equipment. Preventable injuries such as hypothermia can be avoided.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
If you have been injured due to hypothermia or other cold stress-related conditions and are a maritime worker, you may be entitled to the compensation you deserve. Our team will aggressively pursue proper compensation for your pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages. Contact us today for a free legal consultation. We care, we can help.
- Written by Adriana Torres