Richmond, B.C. – With winter temperatures forecast to remain cold across B.C. in the days ahead, WorkSafeBC is alerting employers and workers to be prepared and have a plan in place to manage the risks associated with working outside in below zero temperatures.
From 2011 to 2016 year to date, 72 workers in B.C. were injured, one fatally, resulting from exposure to cold. Cold-related injuries include frostbite, hypothermia, and trench foot. Hypothermia can take hold of a worker gradually and, if untreated, can lead to death.
“In extreme temperatures, frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes without the proper clothing and equipment,” says Dan Strand, director of Prevention Field Services. “Construction labourers, trucking and transportation drivers, utility and maintenance workers, and ski hill operators are just a few of the many different occupations that require workers to perform their duties outside and employers and workers need to ensure they are ready to work safely in these conditions.”
Workers can be affected by frostbite from something as simple as working with wet gloves or removing gloves to put chains on tires. If workers are going to be exposed to low temperatures, employers need to do a cold stress assessment and implement a cold exposure control plan, to prevent injuries. A cold exposure control plan must determine who is working where, what they will be exposed to, and for how long.
Cold stress prevention tips:
- Keep an eye on temperature and wind chill forecasts from Environment Canada and the Weather Channel
- Minimize exposed skin to cold temperatures and wind chill
- Layer clothing to allow perspiration to escape and trap heat
- Keep clothing dry
- Keep bare hands away from metal objects
- Stay hydrated but limit the amount of coffee and tea
- Work rested – fatigue is a risk factor in the cold
- Wear a hat – body heat escapes through the head
- Pace any vigorous work with scheduled breaks in warm and dry areas
See more information on preventing cold weather injuries.