Extreme temperatures are considered a workplace hazard. That means employers must take steps to prevent risks associated with cold weather such as severe cold stress and hypothermia.
“Cold weather is a fact of life in Alberta and it is important for employers to protect their workers from health and safety hazards associated with working in the cold. I encourage all employers and workers to know their rights and obligations when it comes to safety in the workplace, especially as the weather gets colder,” said Minister of Labour Christina Gray.
According to the provincial government, employers can take the following steps to protect their workers:
•providing a heater or other on-site heat source
•providing a heated shelter for workers to work in or take breaks in
•shielding workers from drafts or wind
•allowing workers to take extra breaks if needed
•educating workers on the hazards of working in the cold and controls in place to protect them
•using a buddy system so workers aren’t alone in very cold weather.
Early warning signs of cold stress include:
•feeling cold and shivering
•trouble moving fingers, hands and toes, loss of feeling or tingling
•frost nip (mild frost bite), when the top layer of exposed skin freezes.
Susceptibility to cold injury varies from person to person. Conditions such as age, medical conditions, poor general health and a low fitness level can make people more susceptible to feeling the extremes of cold.