Maritime Safety in Cold Conditions

Winter on the water imposes great challenges on maritime workers. Their work, in general, is physically demanding and difficult. This is true regardless of what the temperature is outside. Yet, adding frigid conditions to an already challenging work environment can make work even more difficult.

The risk of overexposure to the cold is exaggerated at sea. There are no trees or other physical barriers to the wind. Water sprays and waves add to the burden. The combination of wind, water, and cold is treacherously dangerous to maritime workers. Exposure to the cold on the high seas can be deadly.

Symptoms from Overexposure to Cold

Conditions associated with overexposure to cold include hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia is a condition where the body is losing heat faster than it can generate. The body temperature begins to decline rapidly. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Pale skin that is cool to the touch
  • Slurred speech
  • Shivering
  • Loss of coordination
  • Incoherence

In hypothermia, core body temperature is dangerously low, heartbeat is irregular, and thinking is impaired. The victim may not realize the danger due to impaired thinking. Actions the victim should take include:

  • Relocating to a warm, dry area
  • Removing wet clothing and increasing core temperature through skin-to-skin contact
  • Wrapping in blankets to maintain warmth once core temperature is elevated
  • Providing non-alcoholic, warm beverages to drink

Frostbite occurs when the tissue freezes and forms ice crystals. The extremities are most vulnerable, including fingers, toes, ears, and the nose. Signs and symptoms of frostbite include one or more changes to the skin, which may be numb and cold, blistered, pale, or blue. Actions to take include relocating to a warm, dry area and placing the affected area in warm water. Do not massage the affected area or use lamps, stoves, or fireplaces for warming. Following up with medical attention is important as hypothermia and frostbite require constant treatment to prevent further damage.

Minimizing the Risk

Knowing the right precautions to take can reduce the risk of overexposure. Marine workers need proper training, including knowing the risks of overexposure to cold, how to prevent it, and how to respond if it occurs. Dressing in layers is the best defense against the cold. Wear hats, gloves, and insulated boots designed to keep out moisture. Use safe work practices that include the following:

  • Schedule work outside during the warmest part of the day
  • Take adequate breaks in warm, dry areas stocked with dry clothing
  • Drink warm liquids without caffeine or alcohol

Other Precautions

Vessels are also susceptible to cold. If equipment fails during this time, then it could result in disaster. Oil tends to solidify in the cold. All equipment requiring use of oil should be maintained in a warm state to keep it flowing. Cracked gaskets should be replaced as soon as possible as these are likely to fail in the cold. Perform routine greasing and lubrication of open gears.

Cape May Maritime Injury Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate for Injured Maritime Workers

Maritime workers are at a high risk for injury from their work, particularly when working in cold weather. If you experienced an injury at sea as a maritime worker, contact a Cape May maritime injury lawyer at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. today. Call us at 888-999-1962 or complete an online form for a free consultation. We will discuss your case and help you understand your options. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cape May and Wildwood.