Work safely in cold weather
As temperatures fall, challenges rise for staying healthy and safe at work.
Noting that extreme cold is a workplace hazard, the province of Alberta has issued an advisory outlining some of the steps that employers need to take to reduce risks to workers associated with cold weather.
Some of the strategies employers can implement to combat cold stress, based on the specific needs of the site, include adding heaters and heated shelters, implementing a warm-up schedule, shielding workers from drafts, providing extra breaks, educating workers on the hazards of working in the cold, and implementing a buddy system so no one works alone.
Early warning signs of cold stress include feeling cold and shivering; having trouble moving fingers, hands and toes, loss of feeling or tingling; frost nip, which is when the top layers of skin turn white; and irritability, confusion, or loss of coordination.
Workers whose tasks may expose them to cold weather are advised to use layered or insulated clothing, cover exposed skin, take breaks inside, keep footwear dry, and to keep moving to generate body heat but avoid sweating.
“Cold weather is a fact of life in Alberta and can affect workplace health and safety,” stated Tyler Shandro, the province’s minister of labour and immigration. “I encourage employers and workers to work together to minimize the risks of cold temperatures so that everyone can return home safely at the end of the shift.”
Vulnerability to cold-related injury varies from person to person. Factors such as age, medical conditions, and general health and fitness level can influence how susceptible a person is to feeling extreme cold.