Hypothermia: Causes and How to Avoid It in the Workplace

Hypothermia at work: Causes, signs, prevention.

Hypothermia might sound like something that only happens to adventurers on icy mountains, but it’s a real risk even in seemingly normal conditions. If you work outdoors, in a cold environment, or have a job that involves exposure to water, it’s vital to understand what hypothermia is and how to protect yourself.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Our bodies are designed to stay at a cosy 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit), but the cold can overwhelm our system. When your core temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), hypothermia sets in. It sounds small, but don’t be fooled – that temperature drop affects your brain, your muscles, and your ability to keep yourself safe.

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The Dangers of Hypothermia

Let’s be frank – hypothermia is dangerous. In the early stages, you might shiver, get clumsy, and act confused. It’s easy to brush this off as “just being cold”, but the risk is serious. As it progresses, shivering stops, you might even feel warm, and then you can become unconscious, and worse. Hypothermia can quickly become a life-threatening condition if not addressed.

Workplace Causes of Hypothermia

Think only hikers get hypothermia? Think again! Here’s how it can happen at work:

  • Outdoor jobs: Construction workers, delivery drivers, utility workers, and anyone spending hours outside in cold conditions are at risk, especially if the weather turns wet or windy.
  • Cold storage: Jobs in warehouses, food processing plants, or large refrigerators mean prolonged exposure to low temperatures.
  • Water work: Falling into cold water, even for a short time, can quickly lead to hypothermia. This includes work on boats, docks, or near bodies of water.
  • Unexpected situations: Even indoor workers could be at risk with a power outage, an equipment failure, or an emergency.

Staying Safe: Preventing Hypothermia at Work

The good news is that hypothermia is largely preventable! Here’s what you and your employer need to focus on:

Dress for success: 

Think layers! You need a base layer that wicks moisture, a middle layer for warmth (fleece is great), and an outer layer that’s waterproof and windproof. Don’t forget hats, gloves (mittens are warmer!), and warm socks. Keep a change of dry clothes on hand.

Breaks matter: 

Schedule regular breaks in a warm area for workers exposed to the cold. A hot drink and a snack can do wonders for keeping body temperature up.

Spot the signs: 

Train everyone to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia in themselves and their co-workers. Clumsiness, confusion, slowed speech, and shivering are all warning signs.

Buddy system: 

Outdoor or water-adjacent work should be done with a buddy so you can watch out for each other.

Risk assessments: 

Employers should identify jobs with hypothermia risk and have plans in place for prevention and emergency response.

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What to Do if You Suspect Hypothermia

Think someone might be getting hypothermic? Act fast!

  1. Get them warm: Get the person out of the cold and remove wet clothing. Wrap them in dry blankets, and if possible, apply gentle heat, like warm (not hot) water bottles.
  2. Warm drinks: If the person is conscious and can swallow, give them warm, sweet drinks. Avoid alcohol!
  3. Seek medical help: Call for an ambulance or emergency services. Hypothermia requires professional care, even if the person seems to be improving.

Making a Work-Related Accident Claim with National Claims

At National Claims, we understand that work-related accidents can have a devastating impact on your life. If you’ve been injured in an accident at work that wasn’t your fault, our experienced team is here to help you get back on your feet. We specialize in helping victims of workplace accidents secure the compensation they deserve to aid recovery and make up for lost earnings.

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We believe financial concerns shouldn’t stop you from seeking justice. With our “No Win, No Fee” arrangement, you don’t pay any upfront legal fees. If we don’t win your case, you don’t pay us.

Compassionate Support

Workplace accidents are often traumatic. We’ll provide compassionate support while fighting for your rights. Our team is here to answer your questions, keep you updated about your case, and be a source of reassurance during a stressful time.


Hypothermia is no joke. By understanding the risks, dressing right, taking precautions, and knowing what to do in an emergency, you can stay safe and warm, whether you’re building a house or sorting frozen peas.

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