Being locked in a freezer is a workplace hazard that shouldn’t happen, thanks to mandatory emergency release handles and other safety measures. But sometimes, things can, and do, go wrong. What causes doors to lock shut? Can running on the spot save you?
And how much time do you have before you run out of air? The reason these doors stick is an ice build-up around the frame. The locking mechanism and emergency release device can also freeze up. So if you find yourself trapped in a freezer and you can’t get out, just chill and follow these steps.
Step 1: Call For Help
Fortunately, most of us always have our cell phones with us. And hopefully, in this case, that will include going into the freezer. So if you have your phone with you, take it out and see if there’s a signal. Even a weak one might be enough to connect to an emergency number. Calls to emergency numbers must be connected even if the signal is weak. This can also help emergency services find your location and send help.
All walk-in freezers must have emergency releases. Try to find the one in your freezer. Give it a good kick or a shove and see if it budges, or try to find something solid to hit it with if it’s stuck. If A blunt object might help shake it free.
Chris McCabe, a 70-year-old butcher, was trapped after the wind blew the door shut on his shop’s walk-in freezer. It was in the back, and no one could hear him. So he looked around and found a frozen black pudding, sometimes known as blood sausage. It was the same size and shape as the emergency release latch inside the door, which was frozen solid. A few bashes with the banger, and he managed to break out.
Step 3: Conserve your heat
Exposure to temperatures just below freezing can cause frostbite. This can affect any part of your body hit by cold air, but it’s particularly dangerous to your arms, hands, feet, ears, nose and lips. The first sign is something you may have experienced. It’s a tingling feeling of cold and pain in the frostbitten area.
Look around for anything you can use to insulate yourself. You might be able to find plastic sheeting, which is sometimes hung in long strips to help trap the cold air inside when you’re shelving orders. Wrap the plastic around your body, including your hands and head. This will help you keep as much warmth as possible.
And try to find some cardboard or bags of rice, something you can sit on without touching the cold metal floor. This will help you conserve more energy and warmth. It will also give you something to curl up on and keep the heat radiating off your body in a confined space. Finally, try not to move too much, even if you think exercising will help you stay warmer. It will, but it’ll spike the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, and that’s a problem. Too much carbon dioxide can make you delirious. You could even pass out and die before help arrives.
An employee found herself trapped in the freezer when the door slammed shut behind her at the end of a shift. Karlee Daubeney was in the freezer for eight hours, wearing only a Subway t-shirt and leggings, until the morning crew showed up at 7:30 a.m. She said her muscles were so cold it was difficult to walk for a few days. She also had a migraine and dry skin. Hospital staff found she was close to developing hypothermia.
Step 4: Keep your cool
If you can’t get out, try not to panic. Panicking will increase your pulse and breathing rate. You’ll need to conserve your energy because now it is time to become resourceful.
A standard size walk-in industrial freezer contains about 320 cubic feet of pure oxygen. The average person needs about 150 cubic feet of pure oxygen to survive for one day, meaning you’ll have enough oxygen for two days, even inside a sealed unit. But that’s if you don’t freak out and use it all up.
Do your best to stay calm. Try to keep your mind occupied on anything other than where you are. If you have your phone with you, but you didn’t get a signal the first time you tried, try again in a different spot. Try not to waste the battery too much, but keep trying. You never know when you might have some luck, even if just for a moment.
Now you’re out of the locked freezer, and you think you can handle anything. But imagine that you were trapped underwater. What would you do then?
- “Walk-in Safety: Interior Release Mechanisms”. katom.com
- “Butcher locked in freezer bashes out with help from a blood sausage: ‘Black pudding saved my life'”. John Bett. 2018. Fox News.
- “Woman trapped in Subway fridge for eight hours writes ‘help’ message in ketchup”. Kate Ng. 2015. The Independent.
- “Man Gets Trapped In Industrial Freezer – Survives By Licking Ice For Four Days | Her.Ie”. 2021. her.ie.
- “What happens when someone gets locked in a Walk-In Freezer?“. 2015. MTCSS.
- “What if I accidentally ended up locked in a walk-in freezer?”. Howstuffworks.