Working in extreme temperatures

How to protect yourself and others while working in extremely cold or hot temperatures.

Show Answer Working in the cold

When you work in extreme cold, most of your body’s energy is used to maintain a consistent inner temperature. However, there are limits to what your body can adapt to.

If you feel your workplace is unsafe due to cold temperatures, contact the OHS Contact Centre.

Cold stress

Cold stress occurs when your internal body temperature is lowered. Cold stress can be dangerous to yourself and your co-workers.

Early warning signs

  • unusual “–umbles”:
    • stumbles
    • mumbles
    • fumbles
    • grumbles
  • feeling cold and shivering
  • trouble moving your fingers, hands and toes
  • trouble doing tasks
  • loss of feeling or tingling in fingers and toes
  • frost nip, when the top layer of exposed skin freezes

Severe cold stress signs

  • violent shivering
  • loss of muscle coordination, slow movements and laboured breathing
  • amnesia or confusion
  • chilblains: when exposed skin is blue or red, swollen and tingling
  • frost bite: when the skin freezes deeply
  • trenchfoot or trenchhand: caused by prolonged exposure to damp, cold environments
  • loss of consciousness

How to stay warm

  • cover exposed skin
  • work in sunny areas when possible
  • take breaks inside
  • wear good quality, insulated clothing
  • keep footwear dry
  • keep moving to generate body heat but stop before you sweat; if your inner clothing layer gets wet, you’ll lose heat

What employers can do

Cold weather is a workplace hazard. Like all hazards, employers must have a plan to control or eliminate dangers associated with working in the cold.

Some things employers can do include:

  • providing an on-site heater or heated shelter
  • using a work/warm-up schedule
  • using a buddy system so workers don’t work alone in the cold
  • scheduling work during daylight hours
  • allowing workers to work at their own pace and take extra breaks if needed
  • educating workers on cold weather hazards, and plans in place to protect them
  • giving workers time to adjust before assigning a full work schedule in the cold
  • providing insulated clothing
     

Show Answer Working in the heat

Your body needs time to adapt to working in hot weather. This process can take 4 to 7 working days, but can vary with every individual. You should slowly increase the time you spend working outdoors over this time period to make sure you can work safely.

If you feel your workplace is unsafe due to hot temperatures, contact the OHS Contact Centre.

Heat stress

Be aware of the signs of heat stress in yourself and your co-workers, so it can be treated right away.

Early warning signs

  • headache
  • confusion
  • dizziness and fatigue
  • dehydration
  • heavy sweating
  • muscle cramps
  • changes to breathing and pulse rate

Heat stroke

Heat stress can progress to heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when your internal body temperature is raised. It’s a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.

How to avoid overheating

  • drink lots of water
  • take breaks
  • wear protective equipment designed to reduce heat stress
  • minimize physical activity in hot environments
  • know the signs of heat stress

What employers can do

Hot weather is a workplace hazard. Like all hazards, employers must have a plan to control or eliminate dangers associated with working in the heat.

Some things employers can do include:

  • changing the work location to a cooler shaded area
  • creating a cooling station where workers can rest
  • allowing workers to adapt to the temperature
  • scheduling more physically demanding jobs for the cooler times of the day
  • providing plenty of cool drinking water
Created:
Modified: 2016-02-02
PID: 15141

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