As winter descends upon Pennsylvania, outdoor workers face a serious, yet often underestimated, risk: hypothermia. For those braving the cold, understanding hypothermia’s dangers is vital.
Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing a dangerously low body temperature. The average body temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia sets in when it drops below 95 degrees. This condition can affect brain function, leading to clouded thinking and poor coordination, posing a significant risk in work environments.
Causes of hypothermia for outdoor workers
In Pennsylvania’s winter months, temperatures can plunge dramatically. Outdoor workers, such as construction workers, emergency responders and utility workers, are particularly at risk. Factors contributing to hypothermia include:
- Prolonged exposure to cold weather or water
- Inadequate clothing and gear for the weather conditions
- Wetness, either from precipitation, sweat, or immersion
- Fatigue, which can impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature
Early symptoms include shivering, fatigue and loss of coordination. As it progresses, symptoms may include slurred speech, confusion and a decline in motor skills.
In severe cases, shivering stops, and the person may show signs of paradoxical undressing. Paradoxical undressing occurs when they remove clothing despite being cold. It’s an indicating factor for critical heat loss.
Employers in Pennsylvania are obligated to provide a safe working environment. This includes taking measures to prevent hypothermia in winter months, like providing appropriate gear, allowing for frequent breaks in warm areas and educating workers about the signs of hypothermia. Failure to do so can lead to workers suffering from hypothermia. Workers’ compensation claims may result from the development of this condition.