Preventing hypothermia while working at height:
Hypothermia is one of those conditions that many associate with freezing temperatures - Scott’s expedition to the South Pole and the film Titanic spring to mind – and that would be correct. However, people also associate it with the extreme locations as much as the temperatures, when this couldn’t be further from the truth.
For example, someone working at height in Telford could be at a greater risk of hypothermia than someone hiking in Telemark simply because of an inappropriate choice of clothing for the day. Indeed, with every 100m in elevation, the temperature drops by 1 degree in dry air.
Our machine with the highest working height, the JLG 1850SJ, can take you up to nearly 60m – when coupled with factors such as wind tunnel effect, wind chill, and even a misting rain, you can experience dramatically decreased body temperatures which put you at a greater risk of hypothermia.
Identifying symptoms of hypothermia
The first stage of hypothermia is goose bumps, followed by shivering and slurred speech, which may give the impression of them being drunk. This is the first stage of the body’s muscles shutting down. If the body temperature continues to fall below 32 degrees Celsius, then you will eventually fall unconscious, and may suffer a spontaneous heart attack.
If you or anyone you are with experiences multiple of these symptoms, immediately stop what you are doing and call 999.
- Pale, cold, and dry skin
- Blue lips
- Slurred speech
- Slow breathing
- Tiredness or confusion
To prevent it getting to this stage, wearing warm clothing is of paramount importance – including a hat. The head is likely the largest exposed surface on the human body when working at height, so please ensure you are adequately protected from the climate.
Not only this, but when working at height please ensure that you have adequate measures in place in case of an emergency. Carry a mobile phone to ensure you can reach emergency services, and ensure that there are colleagues in the area who know that you are working at height. You should also follow existing IPAF protocols with regards to wearing a harness – if you need a refresher course, you can see here for available courses.