It could be straight out of a ’90’s soap opera, but employees getting trapped inside walk-in freezers is not as uncommon as you might think, and with temperatures below freezing, hypothermia can take just a couple of hours to set in.
Symptoms of Hypothermia
Initial symptoms of tiredness and confusion will lessen your ability to think rationally; to find a safe way out of the situation. As mental faculties further deteriorate, so too do speech and breathing. This is shortly followed by numbness in the extremities and cardiac arrest. And as if being caught in the icy grip of death wasn’t chilling enough, for those who manage to survive, frostbite may inflict irreversible damage resulting in the loss of fingers and toes.
What causes freezer doors to become stuck?
When it comes to walk-in freezer doors getting stuck, ice build-up around the door frame is the primary culprit. This should be kept in check by a door frame heater which must receive regular maintenance checks and repairs. Government guidelines state that employers hold the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. For example, it is considered good practice to routinely check walk in freezers throughout the day, to make sure no one has become trapped inside. Panic bars or other means of escape can be installed on the inside of the door. Some freezers may also have an axe fitted to one of the interior walls for use in emergency. If attempting to hack your way to safety, careful not to hit any copper pipes as this may release deadly Freon gas which will make short work of you in such a confined space.
Surviving a lock-in
Should you become trapped, there are steps you can take. If your walk-in freezer has curtains, take them down to fashion a suit-type garment around yourself. Further protect yourself by lining the floor beneath you with any available cardboard so you’re body isn’t in direct contact with stainless steel. A huge amount of heat is lost through your head, so fashioning a hat and mittens out of any remaining insulating materials you can find should be your next move. Once you’re all wrapped up, there’s nothing to do but keep calm and move about as much as possible to keep your heart rate up.
It is vital that you take these steps as soon as possible, as the colder you become, the harder it will be to regulate your internal body temperature.