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Hypothermia in personnel

Hazard Knowledge

Allowing the core body temperature to fall below 37°C, even by as little as 2°C, may lead to hypothermia. It may be moderate or severe depending on the degree of cooling. Hypothermia can be a life-threatening condition. 

Hypothermia in personnel can be caused or exacerbated by: 

  • Exposure to cold temperatures 
  • Immersion in water 
  • Physical exhaustion 
  • Adverse weather conditions 
  • Inappropriate clothing or personal protective equipment (PPE) 
  • Dehydration 
  • Medical conditions or blood loss  

The symptoms of moderate hypothermia include: 

  • The person saying they feel very cold 
  • Uncontrolled shivering 
  • The person feeling cold to the touch, with cold and pale hands and feet 
  • Loss of manual dexterity 
  • Mild confusion, disorientation or irritability 
  • The person possibly denying having any problem and rejecting assistance 

The symptoms of severe hypothermia include: 

  • Slurred speech and an apathetic, confused and irrational state 
  • Lips turning blue 
  • Reduced consciousness, with a slow, faint or irregular pulse 
  • Shivering stopping