Canadians are no strangers to cold weather, but when temperatures drop, precautions should be taken while working in cold and freezing conditions because doing so can be hazardous and, in some situations, life-threatening. Depending on the type of work performed and location, workers could be subject to chilblains, frostnip, frostbite, trench foot, and even hypothermia if health & safety compliance measures are not followed properly.
What Employers Should Do
Employers should be aware that certain jurisdictions mandate acceptable temperatures for working in the cold while other areas follow the Threshold Limit Values® for cold stress established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. In addition to following these guidelines, employers should:
- Provide employees with equipment featuring insulating materials that can be operated while wearing gloves.
- Remain diligent about monitoring safe working conditions, including the temperature.
- Train all personnel on symptoms of hypothermia, safe work practices, proper clothing practices, and warming procedures.
- Adjust the rate of work to account for cold and freezing temperatures.
- Allow time for newer workers to get used to colder working conditions.
Employers should also make sure their workers wear protective clothing at or below 4°C, including several layers of clothing, a hat, mittens or gloves, a neck tube or face mask, and insulated footwear.
What Employees Should Do
On the other end, employees should be careful when working in colder weather and be diligent about following the health & safety compliance measures set forth by their employer. Employees should make sure they eat properly and frequently, take regular breaks from the weather, and use a buddy system to watch out for the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
This winter, taking extra effort to follow these health & safety compliance measures to protect your workers during cold-weather conditions can prevent injuries and illnesses at your worksite. We also recommend checking out the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety’s infographic on this topic for additional information.