Medical Dangers in Icy Cold Waters
Working offshore on oil rigs or aboard ships and other vessels can be extremely dangerous—not only because of the hazards associated with the jobs, but also as a result of the frigid waters they work around. Plunging into the icy cold waters can be extremely dangerous even to the healthiest of people.
When someone is dropped into freezing waters, the body reacts instantly. Immersion in frigid water sends the body into "cold shock," causing a person to gasp for air and causing strain to the heart. In an effort to retain heat, blood vessels on the outer part of the body constrict, which shifts blood to inner organs to increase their body temperature. In some cases, this causes momentary discomfort, but for those at a high risk for heart disease, constricting blood vessels in the heart can lead to a heart attack. As they desperately try to breathe, they may inhale too much salt water into their lungs, causing them to drown.
Offshore workers who have fallen into frigid waters have been known to drown in a minute or two, even when they are within feet of safety, as their muscles get cold and are paralyzed by hyperventilation. Hypothermia, however, is not always sudden. Some people can survive for up to half an hour in icy waters provided they do not drown. The ability to swim declines substantially the longer the body is immersed since blood flow is cut off to non-essential muscles.
Immersion in freezing cold water can cause a number of injuries including:
- Immersion Dieresis
- Salt Water Aspiration Syndrome
- Swimming-Induced Pulmonary Edema
Given the great deal of harm submersion into icy cold waters can cause, safety measures should be put in place and strictly followed aboard offshore rigs or other vessels. If you or a loved one has been injured as result being submersed in freezing water through the neglect of another, the maritime injury attorneys of Arnold & Itkin can help. We have helped hundreds of offshore workers seek compensation under the Jones Act, and can confidently advise you on your available options. Contact our offshore injury attorneys today to learn how we can help you.