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Posted: January 11, 2020

Take precautions when working in the cold

With cold temperatures and winter conditions in the forecast in many parts of B.C., WorkSafeBC is reminding employers and workers to take precautions and stay safe when working outdoors.

Between 2015 and 2018, 30 workers in B.C. were injured as a result of cold exposure. The most common cold-weather injury is frostbite, which can occur quickly in extreme temperatures, especially when wind or wet clothing are factors. Cold stress can also lead to hypothermia, where a worker becomes so cold they lose more heat than their body produces. Hypothermia can be fatal.

“Working in cold conditions can lead to serious injuries if you’re unprepared — frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes without proper clothing and equipment,” said Barry Nakahara, Senior Manager, Prevention Field Services for WorkSafeBC.

A number of industries and occupations can involve substantial outdoor cold-weather exposure, including transport truck drivers, recreational instructors, operators and attendants, construction workers, and utility and maintenance workers.

For work in cold weather, employers need to do a cold-stress assessment and implement a plan to protect workers from cold exposure.

WorkSafeBC provides the following safety tips for working in cold weather:

  • Wear warm head covering. Most body heat is lost through the head.
  • Layer clothing to allow sweat to escape and trap heat.
  • Protect hands and feet. Wear waterproof boots and always wear gloves or mittens.
  • Pace any vigorous work with scheduled breaks away from the cold. Fatigue is a risk factor in the cold.
  • Stay hydrated. Limit the amount of coffee or tea and avoid alcohol.
  • When possible, heat the working environment. For example, heated shelters help protect construction workers from cold and damp environments.

Submitted by WorkSafeBC


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