Medical Dangers in Icy Cold Waters
Working offshore on oil rigs or aboard ships and other vessels is extremely dangerous—not only because of the hazards associated with the job but also as a result of the miles of frigid waters surrounding the workers. 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 involuntarily gasp for air. As they desperately try to breathe, they may inhale too much salt water into their lungs, drowning them. Experts say that a person who has fallen overboard has about 1 minute to regain control of their breathing or they won't survive. Offshore workers who have fallen into frigid waters have been known to drown in a minute or two as their muscles are paralyzed by hypothermia.
Falling Into Freezing Water Is a Heart Attack Risk
Cold shock also creates intense strain for 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.
If a person manages to survive the heart strain and involuntary gasping, they have only minutes before their bodies become hypothermic. Hypothermia, however, is not always sudden. Some people can survive for up to 30 minutes in icy water. 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 harm falling into icy waters causes, supervisors need to create and enforce strict safety measures.
If you or a loved one has been injured as result of falling overboard into freezing water through the neglect of another, Arnold & Itkin can help. We have helped countless offshore workers seek compensation under the Jones Act, helping them rebuild their lives after life-altering accidents. Contact our offshore injury attorneys today to learn how we can help you.