Hypothermia and Workers' Compensation

Working in the natural elements is a common occurrence for many occupations. Other occupations require individuals to work in deep freezers. Hypothermia is a very real danger for many workers that work in a freezing environment. Hypothermia as a result of doing your job has the potential to ruin your life. Would you be able to pay your bills? Do you have enough savings to cover medical bills? There are many benefits available to you through workers’ compensation that may be available to you after an on-the-job injury.

Workers’ Compensation

Every state has laws pertaining to workers’ compensation. Those laws require most employers provide a workers’ compensation insurance policy. These policies are available to employees at no charge. It’s a special type of insurance that acts like a safety net for people who are hurt while on the job. Many of the benefits that worker’s compensation offers are available to employees who are hurt on the job.


Many workers conduct their daily job duties outdoors or in freezers. When a body is in a cold environment for an extended period of time, it must work harder to maintain its normal temperature – 98.6 degrees. Blood vessels are constricted to keep your vital internal organs warm. When this occurs your outer body -- your hands, arms, feet, and legs – receive less blood flow. Your body attempts to keep you warm by causing you to shiver.

If you work in a cold environment, such as in a refrigerated warehouse, you need to be aware of the signs of hypothermia. They may help save your life.

Initial signs of hypothermia:

  • Persistent shivering
  • Bluish lips and fingers
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Rapid heart rate

Signs of moderate hypothermia:

  • Decreased mental awareness
  • Glassy gaze or stare
  • Confusion or irrational behavior
  • Disorientation
  • Poor decision-making
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slowed breathing

Signs of severe hypothermia:

  • Shivering stops
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Irregular or hard to find pulse
  • Stops breathing

Hypothermia is a medical emergency. An injured worker must be removed from the cold right away. Wet clothing should be removed from an injured employee. Warming should take place on a gradual basis.

Hypothermia is dangerous. It can kill or cause you to suffer permanent damage. You may need to have extremities amputated. The initial cost to treat and the follow up care for hypothermia symptoms can be expensive.

Benefits Available Through Workers’ Compensation

If you have experienced hypothermia while on the job, it’s important that your supervisor is notified immediately. You should consider filing a workers’ compensation claim. Filing a claim can help you get the medical care you need without you paying out of pocket for it.

Assistance with medical costs. Workers’ compensation may be able to help you with the cost of medical care. Workers who experience mild hypothermia may recover without complications. However, those suffering from moderate to severe hypothermia may suffer from permanent damage to the heart, lungs, brain, or other organs. Workers’ compensation may help to cover medical care costs such as hospitalization, surgery, x-rays, MRIs, wheelchairs, and follow-up medical examinations, medications, and any needed therapy.

Help with lost wages. If you are left unable to work due to hypothermia, you may quality for partial compensation of your lost wages. You may also be eligible to receive temporary or permanent disability through workers’ compensation.

Occupational training for a new job. If you have permanent damage because of the hypothermia, you may not be able to return to your former occupation. However, workers’ compensation may provide you with job training to help you get back into the working world.

Protect Your Legal Rights

Hypothermia can be extremely serious. If you file a workers’ compensation claim, you may have questions about your rights or you may be asked to sign something without understanding it. Don’t sign anything. Bring the document and your questions to a workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that you aren’t signing away your legal right to sue and to have all of your questions answered.