As temperatures fall, challenges arise for staying healthy and safe at work.
Extreme cold is a workplace hazard. That means employers need to take steps to reduce risks to workers associated with cold weather such as severe cold stress and hypothermia.
The Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA) does not stop for the cold and knows firsthand how cold temperatures affect the workplace.
Dan Heney is the Regional Fire Chief of the BRFA.
“Cold weather makes fighting fires and managing accidents much more difficult,” Regional Fire Chief Heney told Lakeland Connect. “Water is our main fire extinguishing agent and it doesn’t want to flow very well at -30C, trucks and pumps struggle to work as intended at those temperatures. Leaking water makes ground conditions more treacherous, SCBA start to freeze up after short periods as the moisture in our exhaled breath goes through the regulators, and it’s just uncomfortable standing outside in those temperatures for any length of time. We need to really pay attention to and take care of our equipment and our people when dealing with really cold temps.”
Remember if working outside be vigilant of what your body signs are telling you. If you start to shiver while at work make sure you tell someone.
What employers can do:
- add a heater or heated shelter to the worksite
- implement a work/warm-up schedule
- shield workers from drafts or wind as much as possible
- allow workers extra breaks if needed
- educate workers on the hazards of working in the cold and put controls in place to protect them
- implement a buddy system so no one works alone
How to stay warm:
- use layered or insulated clothing
- cover exposed skin
- take breaks inside
- keep footwear dry
- keep moving to generate body heat but avoid sweating
Early warning signs of cold stress:
- feeling cold and shivering
- having trouble moving fingers, hands, and toes, loss of feeling, or tingling
- frostnip, when the top layers of skin turn white
- irritability, confusion, or loss of coordination
Vulnerability to cold-related injury varies from person to person. Factors such as age, medical conditions, general health, and fitness level can make people more or less susceptible to feeling extreme cold.
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