Yes, to answer briefly. The possibility of hypothermia or hazardous overcooling of the body is the major worry in extremely cold weather. Frostbite, or the freezing of the exposed extremities, including the fingers, toes, nose, and ear lobes, is another dangerous consequence of exposure to the cold. Without prompt medical intervention, hypothermia could be lethal. Working in chilly environments is the main topic of this article. For further information on temperature conditions, please refer to the OSH Answers Temperature Conditions - Hot and Humidex Rating and Work.
What hypothermia warning indicators are there?
Symptoms of nausea, weariness, disorientation, anger, or exhilaration can be precursors to hypothermia. Additionally, workers may endure extreme shaking and pain in their extremities (such as their hands, feet, ears, etc.). Workers should be relocated to a warm shelter and, as necessary, seek medical attention. See our OSH Answers documents on Cold Environments - Health Effects and First Aid for more details.
Are there exposure restrictions when working outdoors in freezing conditions?
Some Canadian jurisdictions' laws specify a range of allowable temperatures depending on the situation. Other times, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists' Threshold Limit Values® for cold stress are used by occupational health and safety jurisdictions (ACGIH). These TLVs are used as guidelines in some Canadian provinces and as occupational exposure limits in others. There are recommendations that can be used to conduct work/task evaluations, design safe work plans, and monitor circumstances to safeguard the health and safety of workers who may be exposed to freezing temperatures where there are no maximum/minimum exposure restrictions for cold working environments. Employers are urged to select a strategy that best protects their workers in cases where there are discrepancies between the recommendations offered by various organizations (and when there are no legislated limitations or guidelines from your jurisdiction). For instance, ACGIH (2018) advises that heated warming shelters (tents, cabins, restrooms, etc.) be made available nearby when work is done constantly in the cold and the wind chill reaches -7°C (19.4°F). Depending on how severe the exposure is, workers should be urged to use these shelters. If symptoms of cold stress appear, head back to the shelter without delay. Work should include regular observation (supervisor or buddy system) and modifying the speed or rate of work so that it is not too high and produce significant sweating that will result in wet clothing for work at or below -12°C (10.4°F). Instructions in safe work practices, re-warming procedures, proper clothing practices, proper eating and drinking habits, recognition of cold stress/frostbite, and signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Time for new employees to get used to the conditions. Adjustments made to account for the weight and bulkiness of the clothing when estimating work performance. Weights to be lifted by the worker (including when shivering does not occur) For additional information on the impact of wind chill and other cold-related issues, see OSH Answers Cold Environments - Working in the Cold.
What are the exposure restrictions for working inside or in a building while it's cold?
For indoor work situations in typically heated buildings, some Canadian governments set a minimum temperature. For a list of laws, see OSH Answers on Temperature Conditions - Legislation.
What actions should be taken if it's really chilly or windy outside?
Employers are required to take all necessary precautions to ensure that employees are safe at work. When it is not reasonably practicable to appropriately control interior conditions or when the work is done outdoors, this obligation includes taking reasonable precautions to protect workers from cold stress illnesses. Generally speaking, it is advised to wear many layers of warm clothes, with a wind-resistant layer on top. Cover any flesh that is visible. Put on a cap, insulated gloves, mittens, a scarf, a face mask, and waterproof, insulated shoes. Keep dry (including taking steps to prevent excess sweating). Keep moving. Keep a strict work/rest schedule. Breaks have to be taken in a warm location that is shielded from drafts. Consider postponing outside activities while it's quite cold. For more details, please refer to the OSH Answers document Cold Environment - Working in Cold.
Where can I get additional details?
Please review the following documents from OSH Answers: Thermal Comfort for Office Work Temperature Conditions - Hot Temperature Conditions - Laws Cold Environments - General Cold Environments - Working in Cold Environments - Health Effects and First Aid"""