How to Recognize, Treat & Prevent Hypothermia on the Job

Loading...

How to Recognize, Treat & Prevent Hypothermia on the Job

Anyone working in the cold is at risk for hypothermia. And while we usually think of it as an outdoor problem for agriculture or construction workers, even indoor workers in freezers and other cold environments can be susceptible.
Read More

By M.B. Sutherland, Sr. Copywriter, Magid

Anyone working in the cold is at risk for hypothermia. And while we usually think of it as an outdoor problem for agriculture or construction workers, even indoor workers in freezers and other cold environments can be susceptible.

Shadow

What is it?




Hypothermia happens when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature.


An icon of a thermometer showing levels of severity of hypothermia

A shirtless man’s torso with glowing heart, veins, and arteries visible

Common Causes of Hypothermia?

Hypothermia can be caused by exposure to cold conditions or immersion in cold water. When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can't function normally. Left untreated, hypothermia can lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death.

Shadow

Signs of Hypothermia


An icon of worker shivering from hypothermia

Shivering


An icon of worker with slurred speech or mumbling from hypothermia

Slurred Speech or Mumbling


An icon of worker with slow shallow breathing from hypothermia

Slow, Shallow Breathing


An icon of worker with weak pulse from hypothermia

Weak Pulse


An icon of worker who is clumsy or uncoordinated from hypothermia

Clumsiness or Lack of Coordination


An icon of worker with confusion or memory loss from hypothermia

Confusion or Memory Loss


An icon of worker with drowsiness or low energy from hypothermia

Drowsiness or Very Low Energy


An icon of worker unconscious from hypothermia

Loss of Consciousness

How to Treat Hypothermia

 

  • Call 911 or get medical help immediately if you suspect hypothermia.
  • Handle your worker with care. Excessive or vigorous movements can trigger cardiac arrest!
  • Move your worker out of the cold if possible. If not possible, shield your worker from the cold and wind.
  • Remove any wet clothing. If necessary, cut clothing away to avoid any jarring movements.
  • Cover the worker with blankets. Cover their head and leave only the face exposed.
  • If you’re outside, lay your worker on his or her back on a blanket. Don’t lay them directly on the ground.
  • Monitor breathing. A person with severe hypothermia may fall unconscious. If the person stops breathing, begin CPR if you’re trained.
  • If the person is alert, give them a warm beverage.
  • Apply a first-aid warm compress on the back of the neck, chest or groin. Don't apply a warm compress to the arms or legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop even more. This can be fatal.

 

Prevention Tips

 

An icon of a winter hat and scarf

Cover Up

Make sure your workers cover their head, neck and face when working in cold conditions.

 

 

An icon of a gauge showing a high level

Don't Overexert

Avoid activities that cause workers to sweat too much. Wet clothing and cold weather cause body temperatures to drop quickly.

 

 

An icon of layers of clothing

Dress in Layers

Have workers wear layers to trap heat near their body. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers hold body heat better than cotton does.

 

 

An icon of a drop of water surrounded by a circle and slash

Stay Dry

Make sure your workers’ cold weather gear is water repellent. If they do happen to get wet, have them get out of wet clothing as soon as possible. Make especially sure workers keep their hands and feet dry while on the job.

 

Send your workers a fast safety training video to remind them to prevent hypothermia!