Blog Post #686 – Cold Stress Alert Issued

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba has issued a reminder on safe work procedures during the winter months to outdoor workers.

“Extreme cold is as serious as any other health risk in the workplace and must be taken seriously,” the Board said in a statement on January 22, 2013.

Cold stress, which affects the body’s ability to control it internal temperature, can result in serious illness or death. Cold temperatures, high winds, immersion in low temperature water, physical exertion and improper or inadequate clothing are some factors that can put a worker at risk of frostbite and hypothermia, the statement adds.

Some of the measures to prevent cold stress include assessing weather conditions before heading out to the worksite and monitoring oneself and co-workers once there; donning layered, dry and insulated clothing with a windproof and waterproof outer shell; taking warm-up breaks in heated shelters; staying hydrated with warm, sweet drinks, and keeping the body in motion but limiting heavy work to avoid perspiration.

A worker suffering from cold stress should be moved to a warm area and encouraged to stay moving. Wet clothes should be removed and replaced with dry ones and medical attention should be sought immediately if a worker is experiencing hypothermia or extreme frostbite, the statement adds.

My opinion

Cold stress is a real physical hazard and must be recognized as one. Once a hazard such as this has been identified then an assessment must be carried out to determine the type and level of cold stress controls are necessary and required.

The immediate health effects of cold stress are restlessness, decreased alertness and a lack of concentration. Performance of complex manual and mental tasks is impaired. Numbness and weakness may contribute to other health and safety hazards. In particular, a worker may become more vulnerable to musculoskeletal system, such as muscle strain. If exposure is prolonged or extreme, frostbite and/or hypothermia may result.

Ensure your workplace has a set of safe operating procedures (SOPs) dealing with possible cold hazards in your workplace. The government of Ontario, through the Ministry of Labour, demands it! It seems that the government of Manitoba demands it too!

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Cold Hazard Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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