Hypothermia occurs when your body loses its ability to maintain body heat and your core temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia can lead to illness, altered decision-making ability, and even death. Hypothermia risks increase during very cold temperatures. As winds increase, they carry heat away from the body faster. Wind chill factors make perceived temperatures feel even colder than actual temperatures. For example, a 20 mile per hour wind can make actual 40-degree temperatures feel like 30 degrees. Moisture from fog, rain, sleet, snow, and perspiration can also cause rapid body temperature loss.

If your work exposes you to wind, cold temperatures, and moisture, get to know the hypothermia risks, signs and symptoms, prevention, and treatments. Shivering is one of the first signs that your body is losing heat. If shivering continues to the point where you cannot control it, you are already experiencing hypothermia. You should seek shelter from the cold and start administering warming techniques immediately. Other hypothermia symptoms to monitor include:

  • Cool, bluish skin.

  • Fatigue, exhaustion, and/or drowsiness.

  • Confusion, memory problems, and/or slurred speech.

  • Irritable or irrational behavior.

  • Stumbling feet and/or fumbling hands showing lack of coordination.


Plan your work according to the weather forecast. Cancel or postpone work when severe weather is anticipated, including:

  • Extreme and sudden temperature drops that don’t give you a chance to acclimate to the cold.

  • Increased winds that can make cold temperatures feel even colder due to wind chill factor.

  • Rain, sleet, or snow that can get you wet and put you at higher risk of hypothermia.

  • Ice conditions that can cause vehicle accidents, slip hazards, or physical hazards from falling icicles.


Prepare ahead for cold weather work, watch out for yourself and co-workers, and use safe work practices such as:

  • Using communication methods to let others know your work location and when to expect you back. 

  • Using the buddy system to monitor each other for signs and symptoms of hypothermia.

  • Carrying extra cold weather gear and changes of clothing.

  • Stocking your first aid kit with chemical heat packs.


Dress properly for cold weather to help your body conserve energy and stay dry and warm. Proper cold weather attire includes:

  • A hat and earmuffs to cover your hair, head, and ears.

  • A scarf that can be layered and pulled up to protect your neck, nose, and cheeks.

  • Mittens (typically warmer than gloves).

  • Several loose layers of clothing for good insulation.

  • Water and wind resistant outerwear.

  • Warm socks and insulated, water resistant footwear.

  • Fabrics like wool, silk, or synthetics that insulate and wick moisture away from your body.


First aid treatment and warming methods for hypothermia include:

  • Removing all wet clothing.

  • Warming the trunk of the body first with blankets, heating pads, or layers of dry clothing.

  • Drinking warm, sweet beverages or sipping warm broth.

  • Avoiding the consumption of caffeinated beverages and alcohol, which can lead to dehydration.


Unconscious hypothermia victims need immediate emergency medical treatment. Summon emergency medical services and administer CPR if indicated.


Recognize hypothermia risks, signs, and symptoms. Plan your work for the cold weather season and extreme weather episodes. Use these prevention techniques to avoid hypothermia and stay safe in cold weather.





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