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Bitter Cold Means Heightened Risk For Outdoor Workers

Feb 8, 2019 - 4 months ago

By Supply Post

Frostbite accounted for 88
percent of cold-related injuries over the last five years

With temperatures plummeting this week in northern B.C., WorkSafeBC is reminding employers and workers they need to prepare and have a plan in place to manage the risks of working outside in sub-zero temperatures.

From 2013 to 2018, 68 workers in B.C. were injured as a result of cold exposure, and one worker died in the Okanagan region in 2014. Injuries included frostbite and hypothermia, which can take hold gradually and, if untreated, lead to death.

“In Prince George, the bitterly cold temperatures are going to remain for the next week or so,” says Barry Nakahara, Manager of Prevention Field Services for WorkSafeBC. “Employers must conduct risk assessments in those circumstances, and have a control plan in place to ensure worker safety.”

Frostbite, which accounted for 60 of the 68 cold-related injuries over the last five years, can happen fast — in just a few minutes — in extreme temperatures, especially when wind or wet clothing are factors. Some of the at-risk occupations are transport truck drivers; recreational instructors, operators and attendants; construction workers; and utility and maintenance workers.

The following tips will help prepare outdoor workers and prevent injury:

Keep an eye on temperature and wind-chill forecasts from Environment Canada
Minimize skin exposure
Layer clothing to trap heat and allow perspiration to escape
Keep clothing dry
Keep bare hands away from metal objects
Stay hydrated and limit intake of coffee and tea
Work rested — fatigue is a risk factor in the cold
Wear a hat to help retain body heat
Pace any vigorous work with scheduled breaks in warm and dry areas

For more information on preventing cold-weather injuries visit Cold stress.

WorkSafeBC is an independent provincial statutory agency governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the provincial government. The organization serves approximately 2.4 million workers and 238,000 employers throughout British Columbia. In administering the Workers Compensation Act, the organization is accountable to the public through the provincial government.

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