In the early 1960s, I recall watching Lucille Ball getting locked in a freezer on her legendary comedy program “I Love Lucy.” Somehow that episode stuck with me into adulthood. As Director of Facilities Management at HEB Food/Drugs in Texas for over 25 years, I had heard of people being locked in freezers, but was thankful it never occurred in our stores, warehouses or manufacturing plants.
We made sure all walk in freezers had interior opening mechanisms and checked/maintained them frequently to prevent a catastrophe. When I served as President of the Professional Retail Maintenance Association, we emphasized the importance of prevention in design, procurement, training and maintenance.
Although they are rare, instances of workers sustaining an injury or losing their lives as a result of being locked in a freezer do occur. These types of accidents are extremely dangerous, especially if the trapped employee is unable to call for help or must wait until the next day for aid.
Obviously, victims are primarily at-risk of suffering from exposure to cold. Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops significantly below the normal level of 98.6 degrees fahrenheit. There are three basic levels of hypothermia:
- Mild hypothermia, which occurs when the core body temperature lowers to between 93.2 degrees and 96.8 degrees fahrenheit;
- Moderate hypothermia, which begins to take place when the core body temperature drops to between 73.4 degrees and 89.6 degrees fahrenheit; and
- Severe or profound hypothermia, which takes place when the core body temperature drops to between 53.6 degrees and 68 degrees fahrenheit.
A person suffering from hypothermia will usually begin to feel lethargic and fatigued well before reaching the severe hypothermia stage. Victims may become confused and disoriented and may also exhibit slowed breathing or speech as well as a loss of feeling in the hands and feet. Once a person’s core temperature has reached severe hypothermia levels, he or she is at a high risk of cardiac arrest and death.
Workers could also suffer from breathing in carbon dioxide, which is emitted by dry ice and can be fatal. Exposure to refrigerants, which function as cooling agents and include chemicals, such as chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloride can also be dangerous. These types of chemicals are toxic in large quantities and can also lead to oxygen deficiency, especially when in a small place.
Even workers who are not trapped for a significant amount of time can sustain injuries. For instance, brief exposure can cause frostbite, which occurs when a person’s skin and underlying tissues are frozen. Generally, the lower the temperature in the freezer, the more quickly frostbite is likely to occur.
Frostbite is also more likely to affect the extremities, such as the feet and hands, which can be especially dangerous for victims who are also suffering from hypothermia and so have lost feeling in those areas. Frostbite usually takes the form of reddened skin with gray or white patches, numbness, and blisters.
Please Support These American Owned Businesses
Click Here: Get Your Natural Vitamins A & D from the Sea!